This Tuesday, CBS and other television affiliates across the country will air a celebrity-studded special from The Real Change Project called Real Change - Artists for Education, which will feature an A-list cast of actors and musicians talking about the teachers who inspired them. Dig just beneath the surface and a critical truth emerges: Many of the leading artists of our time were set on their path by teachers who exposed them to drama, music and the creative process when they were young.
Teachers Inspire Us All
Glee's Matthew Morrison, a featured face of the Artists for Education special, credits two teachers at his performing arts school with the inspiration for his on-screen character, Spanish teacher and glee club coach Mr. Schuester.
"One of them is this guy, Ralph Opacic, who was the director of the performing arts program that I went to in high school. The other, his name is -- I call him Mr. Dorn, obviously, but his name is Phil Dorn. He was the English teacher I had in high school. And he was just so optimistic. One of those teachers that...everything he said...it was just so infectious," Morrison told NPR in a 2009 interview.
During the Artists for Education TV special on April 23, other headliners including Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Pitbull will talk about the teachers who inspired them. But it's not just stars who remember that special teacher who shaped their future. No matter what career we decide to pursue, each of us can point to that teacher who shaped our lives. I couldn't agree more with Liam Murphy, the founder of REAL Change Productions and creator of Artists for Education, when he says:
"Teachers are often the unsung heroes...I'm willing to bet, though, that each one of us has had at least one teacher who changed our lives forever."
Providing Arts Education Means Providing Tools for Teaching the Arts
But there's also another side to the story. Not only are teachers an irreplaceable source of support and inspiration for our young people; we, as a community, need to support our teachers.
With school budgets tighter than ever, teachers must often dig into their own pockets to purchase classroom supplies; in fact, 75 percent of all classroom materials are purchased by teachers. And for teachers of the arts, that investment is even more daunting. After all, you can't teach painting, stage a school play or lead the school band with just a blackboard.
In my role as leader of AdoptAClassroom.org, an organization that helps teachers raise funds for needed classroom supplies, I hear from music and art teachers often. I hear from classroom teachers who want to incorporate creative art projects into their students' classroom learning. Every one of them needs our help in order to help our kids.
If today's educators are going to have the tools to teach and inspire the artists of tomorrow, we must all take an active role. Whether you donate online, hold a bake sale or ask your child's teacher what their classroom needs most, ask yourself what you can give.
This week, I invite you to join me in supporting arts education - and Artists for Education - by tuning in on Tuesday night. (Check your local listings for air times, or watch it streaming at www.officedepot.com/realchange. Office Depot is the title sponsor of the telecast.)
And as you watch, think of the teacher who changed your life. Make a donation at www.officedepot.com/realchange knowing 100% of your donation will go to help teachers. I also encourage you to share a story below about a special teacher who influenced you.