I am fed up with teacher-bashing. Politicians, civil servants, pundits, cartoonists, businessmen, the media -- they all line up to take a shot. Everyone is willing to belittle teachers. But these same critics are not willing to step forward and do the job themselves and, for the most part, neither do they provide any real, substantive suggestions for improving education. In fact, truth be told, most of the critics are not good enough or strong enough to do the job.
I am not a teacher. I am the first to admit that I couldn't teach in the classroom. I am not good enough. I am not dedicated enough. Teachers are the hardest-working people I know, and I know a lot of them. I've been working with teachers for more than 25 years, and it pains me to hear critics discounting the rigors of the teaching profession.
It's summertime. The schools have sent students home and closed their doors. Most teachers are only compensated for 10 months of work, but all across this country, teachers are still working at internships, in workshops, in libraries, and museums to improve their skills, increase their content knowledge, and become better teachers.
More than 600 teachers, for example, will attend workshop and institute programs at Colonial Williamsburg this summer. They come to learn more about the American Revolution and this nation's founders and founding ideals. They come to experience daily life in colonial America and see how ordinary people made and can still make a difference. They collaborate with each other to explore new ways of making American history stories exciting and engaging for the students in their classrooms. Teachers attend these workshops and continuing education experiences -- many times at their own expense -- because they are committed to their students, to parents, and to their communities.
Consider the work of Teresa Potter of Fisher Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma.
Teresa attended the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute in 2000. She has returned nearly every year since as a volunteer -- a peer teacher -- to help colleagues gain the most from their experiences with early American history. She helps the museum better understand and support the work of teachers in the classroom. In her home district, Teresa develops an exciting, engaging learning environment for her students that integrates social studies, math, science, literature, technology, and the arts. Teresa's students explore historic locations along Route 66, interview veterans, and participate in service learning projects. She coordinates a Colonial Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol that draws more than 500 students to learn about the nation's founding ideals. Teresa has received the National Council for Geographic Education's Herff Jones Geography Award, the Oklahoma Humanities Council's Humanities in Education Award, and in 2012, the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary Education.
There's also Ruth King of Cedar Ridge Elementary School in Utah, Mike Warner of East Bakersfield High School in California, Kristie Barbee of Waltrip High School in Texas, India Meissel of Lakeland High School in Virginia, Jodi Mundy at Kenneth R. Olson Middle School in New Jersey -- all of whom work long hours and go above and beyond to bring engaging, challenging, and inspiring lessons into their classrooms. We work with hundreds of great, dedicated teachers every single year.
There is nothing more important to the future of our republic than insuring that America has capable, qualified, educated citizens -- citizens who can investigate and make sound decisions on the critical issues of their time. Our primary and secondary teachers devote their lives to the future of this republic. These women and men shape the lives of every citizen in this great nation.
Take a moment this summer to stop and congratulate a teacher. You know who they are. They are members of your family. They are neighbors down the street. They attend your place of worship. They are members of your community organizations. Seek them out. They will appreciate knowing they have your support. They need your support. They need you to stand up for them. After all, they dedicate their lives to the future of our republic and there is no job more important.
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