If you’re asked to reflect back to the first 12 years of your experiences in school, which teacher do you remember the most? Did he/she make a difference in your life? Mine was a civics teacher in Middle School, who made learning interesting and fun, who broadened my understanding about what being a citizen was all about. Way back then, characters, ethics, moral and courtesy were subjects I learned both at home and in school. I’m thankful to have a taste of such foundation building experiences.

When I moved to Minnesota and became involved as a volunteer with the Reading Partner Program and Junior Achievement, I was enamored by teachers and at the same time was humbled by the profession. It is magical to observe and witness the interactions between the young minds, who are inquisitive and hungry to learn, and the teachers, who are patiently guiding, enticing, empowering these young beings to explore, to push a little harder, and to keep their narrow attention span entertained with new things. It is truly a unique dance to watch – the leading, the letting loose, the firm encouragement, and the gentle pep talk.  We trust our children with these teachers every day, nine months a year. They help shape our children’s future. Many go beyond their call of duty and often have to dig into their shallow pockets to make teaching more meaningful.

Earlier this week, a special education teacher, Tricarico of New York State, excitedly shared his experience when he learned that a sponsor had agreed to give each of his six students a brand-new laptop. He went out of his way to hand-deliver them to the homes of each student.  “I’ll tell anybody who’s willing to listen: I have the best job in the world,” Tricarico said, “They are genuinely unique and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.” Watching the joyous expression of the students when they realized they got a laptop was priceless. This is a moment they will remember because a teacher cares.  Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

A few weeks ago, when schools were abruptly suspended, a friend of mine shared a story about her daughter.  Here it is, in her own words …

My daughters and I have been self-isolated now for 14 days. About a week ago, my 8 year-old seemed sad, so I asked her what was wrong and she quietly said, “I didn’t even get to say goodbye to my teacher.”  I told her that it was okay to be sad and told her I understood that it must be hard with her school year having had ended so unexpectedly. She loved her teacher this year more than I have ever seen anyone love a teacher. This had felt so good for me to send my child to be nurtured emotionally and intellectually by someone that I trusted, for all of those hours and days that made up what had been her 2nd grade experience.

This morning during breakfast after having had a long week, I received a text message stating that they were going to do a “Teacher Parade,” through our neighborhood and I immediately felt huge waves of emotion pass through my body and tears began to stream down my face. My daughters looked at me, I smiled and said, “It’s okay, they’re happy tears.” because it was going to be something familiar. It was going to be something that felt normal, and I knew that on some level my girls just needed to see their teachers and to know that they were still here and they are okay after having suddenly disappeared from their little lives.

And, it was amazing. It was sunny and I was grateful.

We sat on the curb with signs made with printer paper, scotch tape, popsicle sticks and markers and they drove by in their vehicles with streamers. The gym teacher with shoes hanging from laces on his truck. All of them honking their horns and waving with more enthusiasm than I ever would have expected.  I took a photo of my daughter as she stood up in anticipation when she saw the parade start to come from down the street and in all of her 8 years, I have never seen her beam the way. Standing with joy-filled eyes and smile with her little heart open and arms wide as if she was expecting to wrap those thin little arms around the entire parade as it came toward her.

There was no candy. There were no fancy floats or big balloons. Just teachers in their cars.

Thank you, thank you, thank you—for how you have all shown up for our little ones in ways that you may never know.

Teacher Appreciation Week is winding down. But the effect each teacher has in his/her students continues. May their purpose and passion to empower the future of the world manifest for the greatest good of all concerned. Go teachers!


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