05/08/2012 03:39 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2012

Open Letter to Teachers on Teacher Appreciation Day

Dear Teachers,

There is a Japanese proverb that says, "Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher." By the time your students graduate from high school, they will have spent about 10,000 hours at school being instructed by more than 30 teachers. That's why almost everyone has a story about a teacher who has touched his or her life.

Just like so many politicians, artists, astronauts, entrepreneurs and surgeons, I am who I am today partly because of a great teacher. After dropping out of school, I found my way back and landed in Herman Katz's English class. Mr. Katz believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself, and over 40 years later I sometimes still spot his kind smile and horn-rimmed glasses among the sea of faces at my speaking engagements.

Teachers devote their lives to giving our children the tools to succeed and inspire them to do it.

It is you who listen to our children, who challenge them, and who encourage them to stand up for their values. You will teach our future U.S. presidents the importance of the Constitution, show the next Carlos Santana how to strum a guitar, and demonstrate the Scientific Method to the bright young student who will cure cancer.

The simple truth is that, as a nation, we must invest in a strategy that places appropriate value on the contribution that you and your colleagues make to our collective future. Teacher attrition rates are far too high, and given that you are the builders of our future, losing even one good teacher is too many.

Working closely with the teachers at the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, I have seen firsthand the inspiring effects of teachers leading their schools in shaping innovative district initiatives. We must continue to expand career and leadership opportunities like these, opportunities that allow you to develop your practice, foster a school culture that encourages collaboration with your colleagues, and empower you with the autonomy to innovate and thrive.

Moreover, any efforts to brighten our nation's future must be built upon a deep appreciation for your incredibly important work. On this Teacher Appreciation Day, I'd like thank you for your countless hours, your sweat and tears, and your relentless commitment to our children. And I'd also like to thank you in advance for inspiring the next generation of amazing teachers.

Very truly yours,

Antonio R. Villaraigosa
Los Angeles Mayor