I am a writer today thanks to the efforts of my many public school teachers.
In seventh grade, Mr. Kahle used the first three books in Lois Lowry's The Giver series to introduce me to literary criticism. He patiently taught me how to find meaning in a text and how to show my reasoning. He held me to a high standard and insisted that my work be the very best it could be. I still have the papers I wrote in his class.
The next year, Mr. Hollenbeck helped me see a variety of perspectives through his world religions curriculum. He set an example that compassion is essential to understanding and building a community with other people. He required my writing assignments to leave room for nuance, considering many factors that lead to tragedies like war and genocide. I had him again as a junior for comparative politics — a class that still comes in handy all the time.
My senior year, Mrs. Wallenberg, whom we all affectionately called "Wally," used Shakespeare as a vehicle to show me that there are many different ways to interpret the same information. No two productions of Hamlet follow the same stage directions, just like no two people look at the same law and come to identical conclusions. Whatever opinions I held about a text were valid, as long as they actually came from the text. It wasn't my thesis that mattered as much as my ability to show how I arrived at that thesis. Almost a decade later, I use that skill every day.
I wonder how today's students will remember their 2020-2021 school year. Will they recall how their teachers embraced the drastic-but-necessary move to hybrid and distance learning by making it as fun as possible? Will they remember how teachers made house calls to check on them? Will they tell their children about their mayor, law enforcement and fire department getting silly in a music video, just to make the students smile through the difficult transition?
More than likely, students don't know what is happening behind the scenes to help them learn, grow and develop into capable, productive adults. They probably can't imagine how much their teachers think and worry about them. They may not understand how much work it is for teachers to completely change learning models in the middle of a pandemic.
Teaching is a classic example of a thankless job, but it doesn't have to be that way. Let's face it — teachers deserve to make a million dollars a year. But as long as they don't, we can at least show our appreciation for what they do for our communities and children. They're a huge part of building America's future, and their impact cannot be overstated.
Please join me in thanking the teachers in our communities. They're just the best, aren't they?