Billie Ann Helean

Teacher Appreciation Week is upon us as we near the end of one of the most-challenging school years anyone has ever faced.
This was a year beyond the wildest imagination of those who conceived of this well-earned recognition.
Teacher Appreciation Week began in 1953 when former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt convinced Congress to approve a proclamation of National Teachers’ Day. In 1985, the National Parent Teacher Association established the first full week in May as Teacher Appreciation Week.
We continue to dedicate the first week of May to honor the work teachers do every day.
Teachers are always grateful when their hard work is recognized. They pour their heart, soul and pocketbook into providing their students with the best possible education. But by the end of the school year, many teachers feel as if they are running on empty.
The timing of Teacher Appreciation Week is quite perfect because it helps replenish these dedicated educators who have worked tirelessly all year to provide a rich and rewarding learning experience.
Although the words “teacher appreciation” would indicate that we recognize only those who teach children reading and math in the classroom, those working in education will tell you that every adult working in our schools is an educator.
Students who ride buses learn from their driver about road safety and appropriate behavior in a transportation setting. Many drivers go above and beyond transporting students, teaching kids kindness and generosity.
When they get to school, some kids will get their breakfast from the cafeteria before they head to class. There they interact with food-service workers, duty staff and custodians.
They learn about food preparation, manners and the value of hard work.
Many of these staff members go above and beyond their job descriptions.
These adults remind students every day that there is a community of adults who care for their health, safety and well-being.
When they get to their classroom, kids learn the expected subjects. But they also learn from education assistants, speech therapists, occupational therapists, counselors, nurses, psychologists, audiologists, secretaries, principals and many, many more!
Teachers do not do this work alone. It takes every school and district staff member to make the school day look and feel seamless to our students and the community.
Truly, it takes a village!
In no other year has the work of educators been more important yet more difficult. Teaching and learning during a pandemic have taught us all valuable lessons, one of the most notable being how essential educators are to our community because of the fully rounded experiences they provide.
Please thank all educators this week: the bus driver, the custodian, the secretaries and yes, the teachers — and everyone in between. The work educators do every day is critical to the success of our entire community.
Happy Educator Appreciation Week!
(Billie Helean is a first-grade teacher at Ernest Stapleton Elementary and the president of Rio Rancho School Employees Union.)