Teacher Appreciation Week is upon us. This year it’s near the end of one of the most challenging school years anyone has ever faced. The kind of school year that wasn’t a consideration when Teacher Appreciation Week originated.
Teacher Appreciation Week began in 1953, when former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt convinced Congress to approve a proclamation of National Teachers’ Day. Then, in 1985, the National Parent Teacher Association established the first full week in May as Teacher Appreciation Week. And so, each year during the first full week of May, we take a few days to honor the work teachers do every day.
Teachers are always grateful for recognition of their hard work. They pour so much of their heart, soul, and pocketbook into this work, that by the end of the school year, many teachers feel completely poured out. The timing of Teacher Appreciation Week is quite perfect, because it pours back into these people who have worked tirelessly all year to provide a rich and rewarding learning environment for their students.
Although the words “teacher appreciation” would indicate that we take this time to recognize those individuals who teach children reading and math, anyone who works in education will tell you that every adult working in education is an educator.
Students who ride buses learn from their driver about road safety, and the appropriate behavior in a transportation setting. Many drivers go above and beyond transporting students, so kids learn about kindness and generosity.
When they get to school, some kids will get their breakfast from the cafeteria before they head to class. In the cafeteria, 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 also go above and beyond their job descriptions. These adults remind students every day that there are adults who care for them, and want to ensure their health, safety, and well-being.
When they get to their classroom they learn about the things we expect them to learn about: reading, math, music, art, etc. 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 all of this look and feel seamless to our students and the community. And in no other year has this work been more important, yet been more difficult to do. Teaching and learning during a pandemic has taught all of us valuable lessons, but one of the most valuable lessons we might take from all of this is how very important educators are to our community because of the fully rounded education they provide.
Please thank ALL educators this week: the bus driver, the custodian, the secretaries, and yes, the teacher — and everyone in between. The work educators do every day is critical to all of our community’s success. Happy Educator Appreciation Week!
Billie Helean
First-grade teacher and president of Rio Rancho School Employees Union