As I sit down at my computer on this Thanksgiving morning, I can’t help but think of how thankful I am for all the teachers in my life. As the daughter of two teachers, my life, from my first breath, was impacted by educators. Now, as I look back, I realize that many of the people who truly mattered to me stood at the front of classrooms.
These thoughts are in light of a recent Forbes article which celebrated the “Top 30 Under 30” in education. Not a single classroom teacher made the cut. It would be ridiculous if it weren’t so offensive. Teachers, and what they bring to the classroom, is what matters. I say this as an administrator and a consultant with full knowledge that I will not impact lives like I did when I taught 7th grade. My job now, however, is to inspire and educate classroom teachers because their interactions and relationships with students are how we will change our world.
I am thankful for my colleagues in Groton-Dunstable, for always welcoming me into their classrooms and sharing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in action. Also, for continuing to teach me about best practices, the value of collaboration, and the magic of engagement. They are not only my colleagues, but they educate my own children and I know that when I pick up my kids every day, they are better because of their interactions with their classroom teachers and the amazing experiences they have in Wellness, Maker-Space, art, music, and physical education. This morning, my daughter, Aylin (age 6) sits next to me as I write. I ask her, “Why are you thankful for your teachers?” Without missing a beat, she says, “They are all kind and they like us to try different and separate things and let us choose what to do so we know what we need.” If that’s not a message of UDL from the core, I don’t know what is.
I am thankful for Mrs. Paris, my kindergarten teacher, who let me sit on her lap on the first day of school, when I was scared. For Mrs. Kellogg, my third grade teacher, who introduced me to creative writing. For Mr. Anderson, my sixth grade teacher, who inspired us to create our own classroom management pact, and a student government to enforce it. For Mr. Mooney, who was my PE teacher from Grade 5 to Grade 12, who told me I was a “bull” and could accomplish anything I wanted if I put my mind to it. And for Mrs. Kraus, who took me aside and said I was “wasting it” my senior year, and I was capable of so much more. You were right.
For Mrs. Barron, who was my lead teacher when I student taught at Fountain Valley High School and paved a road for me to engage thousands of students by following her example. And of course, for Mom and Dad, who always came home with smiles on their faces and stories about “their kids” and their colleagues. I saw the love and respect and the power of their craft, and I wanted to be a part of that.
Because I am thankful for teachers, I teach them. I believe in the power of teaching and teachers deserve a champion. But my job will never compare to theirs, and for that, I am forever grateful.