Teachers should be honored, well-paid

Every compartment and level of my soul – from the deepest part up through and to the very surface – awakens when I think about the teachers I had as a student in school. Their impact is felt to this very day. In fact, the impact is celebrated at this very moment. My classmates and I were very fortunate to have those wonderful and caring teachers.

 

On Tuesday, May 9 – during Teacher Appreciation Week – the nation will pause reverently to appreciate teachers on Teachers’ Day.

 

In honor of my personal teachers, I could use all the space in this column naming them and their specific contributions that helped to mold and shape me into the person I am today. They know who they are. I shall not attempt to name them and their unique contributions to me, as the space in this column is not sufficient to acknowledge them all.

Plus, I dare not risk omitting a teacher and a specific contribution. That would be unforgivable. I have no doubt that I would be forgiven by the teacher, but I would have a hard time processing the omission myself.

So, I will honor their tutelage by yielding to my better thinking: I will acknowledge them (from elementary school through college and beyond) collectively, past and present. I love and adore them sincerely. If they or family members remain on this side of heaven, they will know of the place they claim in my heart and mind.

My brain is loaded with the seminal lifelong lessons they imparted. A few of them have departed this life, and passed on to receive the ultimate appreciation from the Master Teacher. Horse Creek Academy Charter School students, I am convinced, will remember the wonderful teachers here decades from now, in the same manner as I remember my teachers.

As I think about those wonderful, caring teachers, I can see their traits in the teachers with whom I currently work at HCA. Some of the nation’s most talented and caring teachers are right there.

Many years are spent in the halls of universities by aspiring teachers studying the principles and practices on becoming a teacher. Schools of education or teacher colleges perform exceptionally well preparing students for this very important work. I am especially pleased with their efforts to tap the experiences of classroom teachers to inform their curricula, and to give aspiring teachers exposure to actual experiences in classrooms before assuming the responsibility as teachers.

Many years ago, teachers were presented apples by their pupils to express appreciation. This year, on Teachers’ Day, it would be great for the nation to show appreciation to teachers by recognizing the need to pay teachers adequately. Let us – in a concerted voice on this Teacher Appreciation Week – send notes to our state and federal legislators asking them to establish a consistent multiyear salary-increase framework to move teacher pay beyond the pittance level.

 

For too long, the maxim has been: Teachers did not enter the profession for money. I am afraid that the caliber of teachers that education has been able to attract to the profession no longer will be willing to enter the profession, if the salary structure from the beginning of the pay scale to the end of it is not upgraded to be competitive with other professions.

We do not want to get comfortable with hearing the expression “I would love to teach school, but I cannot afford to teach.” There is a standard of living that has to be maintained. Economic concessions are not given to consumers who happen to be teachers. I am simply advocating during Teacher Appreciation Week that teachers are worthy of a professionally comparable and competitive salary package. Let us use this week to engage in respectable dialogue with policy officials, at the state and national levels, on their behalf.

The entire nation should salute teachers for their dedication and sacrifices. Teachers touch and build the future. How powerful is that? Very, very powerful!

The writer – a former superintendent of schools for the Richmond County Board of Education – is executive director of Horse Creek Academy charter school in Aiken, S.C.

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