Here’s what Freedom Park Elementary School fifth-grade math teacher Sandra Owens received after being named Richmond County’s 2018 Teacher of the Year:
She got a trophy; a Richmond County Schools embroidered navy blazer; gift certificates to local restaurants; a one-night stay at The Partridge Inn; a 40-inch TV; admission to a teacher’s conference; $500 from Peach State Federal Credit Union; a customized class ring; a diamond necklace; and use of a vehicle from a local car dealership.
She’s being treated much like a pro athlete winning a most-valuable-player award.
We consider it easier for a football receiver to catch a tight spiral than for a teacher to successfully hold a fifth-grader’s attention in math class.
It’s been whimsically pondered before by many others, but we’ve wondered as well: What if teachers got the same treatment as pro athletes?
A 2015 TV sketch from the comedy duo Key and Peele poked fun at the idea by staging a cable news show that covered education the same way other shows cover sports. It showed an 11th-grade English teacher “traded” to New York City after signing an $80 million contract over six years. A calculus teacher, “drafted” straight out of college, was described as having a father “living from paycheck to paycheck as a humble pro football player.”
The absurdity is played for laughs, but it prompts an important question: Why don’t teachers attain a greater societal importance than athletes?
Teachers aren’t academic automatons spewing facts and figures for pupils to memorize for tests. The best teachers are partners with parents in helping develop generations of children into knowledgeable, successful and independent adults.
In the grand scheme of things, doesn’t that sound more important than knowing how to hang a good curve ball?
“Educators are not just people who have summers off, but people who impact and change students’ lives,” Owens told The Augusta Chronicle recently. “If the image of educators would improve, we may actually be able to reduce teacher attrition rates.”
When your son or daughter gets a teacher of Owens’ caliber, here’s an example of what you can expect:
Last spring, a former student’s mother sent Owens an email telling her the effect she had on her son’s life while he was in her fourth- and fifth-grade classes. The mother also sent two photos – one of her son in the fourth grade, and another of him as a high-school senior holding his acceptance letter to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Teachers such as Sandra Owens are the real MVPs.