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A Reflection: The Value of Teachers and Their Impact on Children and Communities

Thank a Teacher

Growing up, my primary school housed students from first to eighth grade and served mostly students of color. Prior to the pandemic, I attended a celebration for the retirement of Mrs. P, my eighth-grade teacher. The room was packed; filled with people of various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. I heard families speaking Spanish, Tagalog, Italian, and English. Mrs. P was a teacher for 45 years and taught generations of children within families. As I looked around the room I witnessed tears, joy, and laughter. Then one by one individuals stood and told their own story of how Mrs. P. touched their lives and the lives of their families. I listened intently and felt the power of the stories being shared. In that moment, I experienced such awe in the woman who inspired me to go into the profession of education and pride in my connection to her and the ministry of teaching.

The power of education to transform lives is incalculable and so is the value of the individuals who train and prepare to wield that power daily. We know from educational research that teacher effectiveness accounts for more of the variation in student academic success than any other school characteristic. Analysis of the data delineates the characteristics and best practices. As I listened to each person share their story about the transformational impact of Mrs. P and her teaching, it was clear that her skill went beyond best practices. As we take the time to acknowledge and appreciate teachers this week, I’d like to share my reflections on the words expressed by those who love Mrs. P and the value of teachers and the ways they impact children and our communities.

“Teachers are the bridge to a life that a person didn’t think was possible.” – Steve

“Teachers hold high expectations and maintain an environment of care. I was consistently challenged to be present and focused. She knew my home circumstances and squeezed every ounce of learning into the school day. She didn’t allow me to slip through the cracks.” – Gee

“Teachers provide a fundamental understanding of society for students and shape the minds of future leaders and informed community members.” – Tiffiny

“Teachers have the opportunity to reach into the dark and pull a child forth into inspiration. When I was told that I could be anything I set my mind to, it was the first time I heard those words. It lit a fire of motivation in me that still burns.” – Carlton

“Teachers recognize the talent, skills, and gifts within children that they didn’t even know they had and then inspire them to cultivate and use them.” – Toni

Encouraging children to dream and to provide examples of possibilities beyond their imaginations is central to the work of teachers. Several former students mentioned that Mrs. P. introduced them to the idea of college and made them feel that it was an achievable goal although most of us did not have family members who went to college. She made it a point to work in concert with the school community and intentionally engaged with the ethnically diverse teaching staff. So although Mrs. P. identifies as White and Italian, she made sure that her students interacted with teachers and adults that looked like them. One speaker noted, as a Filipino child, how impactful it was to see Asian and Pacific Islander women in important and revered positions.  

Educators serve as the foundation of learning and knowledge that inspires curiosity and creativity. Teachers shape and influence our society by cultivating future workers, scientists, care takers, doctors, innovators, and leaders. The cradle of society rests on the shoulders of our teachers. Especially during this very trying time in our history, reach out and uplift those individuals who work selflessly to inspire, excite, edify, and educate our children and communities. Uplift our TEACHERS!

Kimberly A. White-Smith, is dean of LaFetra College of Education, University of La Verne and an Executive Committee member of AACTE Board of Directors.