Since the start of the Great Recession, public employees have been the target of much disdain and many cuts. One of the sectors hardest hit from these cuts is public education, where some 300,000 education jobs have been lost since 2008.
These job losses have hurt economic activity far more than some of the other pet projects that politicians claim are jobs worth fighting for. But perhaps worse than the current economic activity is the effect these cuts will have on the future of this country.
A Harvard study shows that one good teacher has the ability to increase a child's lifetime earnings. With less money and stability in education, fewer students will be compelled to pursue education as a profession. If the goal is to improve education, this study would suggest making schools the target of massive budget cuts is probably the wrong way to go about it.
The reality is that thanks to the realization from many politicians that attracting top talent to the education field requires a certain commitment from the government and local communities, school districts across the nation are filled with exceptional teachers who inspire students to achieve greatness.
Don't believe me? Ask anyone who their favorite teacher was and you are likely to get a quick and passionate response.
Unfortunately for many teachers, students often don't recognize and appreciate how important a particular teacher was in their lives until they are much older. So while we are more than happy to talk with anyone who asks about the things that made a teacher our favorite, those teachers are often unaware of how influential they were.
But if you really want to see the value of a good teacher you need look no further than two Southeastern Michigan communities that lost extraordinary educators over the past few weeks.
Linden teacher Andy Kargel and Saline educator Jim Letcher both passed away this month. The outpouring from students and parents in their school districts shows just how special both of these educators were.
Friends of the Kargel family set up a website that people allows anyone to donate to the college fund for Andy's two young children. The goal of $50,000 was passed in under a week. While this shows how important Andy Kargel was to so many people, the comments attached to many of these donations are a true testament to the teacher that Andy was.
"Both of our kids were lucky enough to have Andy for years. Our youngest talked about him every day when I picked her up from school. He was a very special person, and none of us will ever forget him!"
"Thank you Mr. Kargel, for being the best teacher ever."
"3 of my 5 sons have had the pleasure of Mr. Kargel inspiring them through his teachings."
"Mr. Kargel left a lasting impression on our family, he was such an amazing teacher and person!"
The students and colleagues of Jim Letcher also took time to share stories about the profound impact Jim had on students and how he made each school he worked for a better place.
"He was by far the best teacher Gabby ever had. She grew so much this year because of him."
"Wonderful teacher! Rest in peace Mr. Letcher, you will be missed!"
"He was the charismatic soul of the building"
These words show that while both of these men were outstanding teachers, they were even better people.
We never know when it will be our last chance to tell our favorite teachers how they made us a better person. How they inspired us. How they gave us the confidence to reach for our dreams.
If you had a teacher that made a difference in your life like Andy and Jim did for thousands of Michigan students, today is as good a day as any to let them know you appreciate all their hard work and special attention. Just don't be surprised when they feel undeserving of these accolades because most great teachers do the job for the love of it.