National Teachers Day Honors Educators of All Kind

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Teachers I Have Known and Meet Every Day

By: Dr. Sheila Ingle, Associate Professor and Chair of Elementary Education

May 7, 2013 has been designated as National Teacher Day. The National Education Association has established the motto, “Great teachers make great public schools” and indeed they do. As an associate professor in the School of Education at Gardner-Webb University, I have the opportunity to work with many teachers and those who aspire to become teachers. While all have different teaching areas, philosophies, personalities and interests, I have identified three threads, which seem to represent a commonality they all share. I offer them for your reading.

1.  They are not in it for the money, the short school day, or summers off.

I have been in the education business for over 35 years. During that time, I have met more teachers than I can count and I have taught many teacher candidates. I have yet to meet a teacher who is in it for the salary, the hours or the extended vacations. In fact, teachers are consistently paid less than their counterparts who earn comparable degrees. The argument that teachers don’t work an entire day or year doesn’t hold water either. The concept of the 8:00 – 2:15 school day is long gone. Most teachers arrive in the classroom long before the school day begins, and their day doesn’t end when the last child goes home. There are still meetings, papers to be graded, and work to be done. Most teachers are at their desk until late in the afternoon and early evening, and still go home with an armload of work. The teachers I know rarely, if ever, have the summer off, but instead put in many hours going to school for an advanced degree, attending professional development, working on lesson plans, or preparing their classrooms.

2.  They spend their own money on supplies.

Even before the economy brought on the current budget issues, teachers were spending their own money to do their jobs. I honestly know of no other profession where this is the case. My friends who are accountants or who work in business are usually issued all the supplies they need to do their job. However, if a teacher wants to make cookies with his class, do a special art project, or provide classroom incentives, chances are good they must hand over their own funds to do so. Schools provide the basics; but most of the time it is the teacher in the classroom who provides the extras. I have known teachers who paid for children to go on field trips who otherwise wouldn’t get to go and I have known teachers who made sure that a child had a warm coat and new shoes. I remember my own teaching days when a good portion of my monthly salary went to pay my bill at the local school supply store. Teachers are constantly on the prowl for supplies and can often tell you the best dollar store buys and garage sales.

3.  They are committed to what they do.

You might ask…who wants a job where you will make less money than many of your friends, have to spend your own money do your job, and are constantly under public scrutiny? I see in the flesh, the answer to this question every time I meet with a prospective student who wants to major in education, when I meet a teacher out in the schools, or I attend a professional development meeting. I see these individuals, those who are teachers now and those who want to teach, and I am constantly humbled. They are committed to teaching and they show it by their tenacity to the cause and their devotion to their students. I often tell my students that teachers – much like those in the ministry or religious life – are called. They are called to be that inspiration to the student in the last row who has hated school until now, the lifeline to the student who needs a listening ear, and the teacher who made a difference to the student who has almost lost confidence in her ability to learn.

In recognition of National Teacher Day, I hope you will look around you and realize that great teachers do more than make great public schools—they make a pretty awesome difference in all of our lives. Please find a teacher – or someone studying to become one – and tell them how much you appreciate what they do.