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OPINION: For the Teachers

By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith/ Community Columnist

May 3-7 marks “Teacher Appreciation Week.” From its conception in 1953 by Eleanor Roosevelt, Teacher Appreciation Week was meant to recognize and honor teachers for their service and sacrifice. In most cases, teachers throughout their career take on many other roles other than “to teach.” Motivated by their passion to teach and to create an environment to reach the student, they are put into other scenarios that they did not directly sign-up for.  Too often teachers can feel restricted instead of empowered; disrespected instead of heard; having to fight for justice without the support of others instead of being able to collaborate successfully; having their experience undervalued instead of appreciated. Having to meet state mandates and standardized testing can leave teachers feeling overran.

Much of the stress recently placed upon teachers stems from COVID-19. During a pandemic, it is difficult for leaders to know how to respond in the safest and best way, but nonetheless, teachers are there to fill in the gap of whatever happens. A few months ago, Chilton County Board of Education met county principals and teachers to listen to concerns and complaints; concerns that mainly included teacher exhaustion of teaching in-person and online students, trying to contact students that had seemingly disappeared after students could stay at home, cleaning their classroom after teaching, receiving paper trails from students that do not have access to the internet, amid the stress of worrying if they too, might be placing their life (and family) in danger by being in close personal contact.

Of all of the Teacher Appreciation Weeks that have passed by since 1953, has there been a year more deserving of the world’s gratitude?

In personal encounters with teachers, each person’s experience varies. During a person’s youth, teacher appreciation is not always realized and can feel like a chore or penalty to have to correspond with any adult. Teachers are not always on the same wavelength as every student, nor do they know what each student might have to endure at home. Likewise, teachers might also be having a difficult home life or dealing with work-related stress. Despite the student-teacher relationships that never reach their full potential, there are countless others that change lives which ultimately changes the world.

For the teachers that dedicate themselves endlessly; for the teachers that feel underpaid and exhausted; for the teachers that have had students and parents say disrespectful things; for the teachers that stay up at night worrying about a student’s safety at home and living conditions; for the teachers that have provided food or clean clothes when the student did not have any; for the teachers that allow students to stand on their shoulders in order to make their career path for the future; for the teachers that have cheered from the stands and given guidance on how to excel; for the teachers that have helped cultivate a better, more acceptable behavior and attitude; for the teachers that help us find our talents and encourage our unique abilities:

Thank you. May you always be reminded that because of a teacher and role model that the human race has been lifted up to become someone good in the world, someone fruitful that is able to continue spreading life-giving knowledge. The world’s greatest leaders have been and always will be inspired and encouraged by their teachers. The fruits of your labor have inspired change in personal character, technology, art, science, social injustice and countless other ways. Everything good begins with a good teacher.