By Carissa Moffat Miller
How has a teacher impacted you? It’s a question we ask ourselves every year during Teacher Appreciation Week, as we take time to recognize and celebrate the teachers in our lives. I recently asked this question of my 17-year-old daughter. What might you say to your favorite teachers if you were writing them a letter about the impact they’ve had on your life?
She said her teachers have taught her to be kind and sensitive, to appreciate literature and love life.
But most importantly, she said, “Teachers can have such a great impact when they form a personal relationship with students which makes it so much easier to learn difficult material. It’s about trust. It’s about compassion. It’s about inspiring us.”
I couldn’t have said it better. This is the same message I heard loud and clear from many of the State Teachers of the Year who were gathered in Washington, D.C. a week ago. Throughout their conversations, they emphasized the importance of personal connections. In her keynote speech to her colleagues, 2018 National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning said, “We understand that content is important, but relationships and connections with our students are paramount. Without relationships, we cannot help our students master content.”
See, whether you are a student or a teacher, you understand that content cannot be mastered unless you first build trust with the person on the other end. Good teachers know this and work hard every day to build these important relationships.
As executive director of CCSSO, I have the opportunity to meet with teachers across the country – through CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year Program as well as the many classrooms we visit in states. I get to listen, to hear their passion, and get to know them as kind, thoughtful and caring people as well as talented professionals.
Just like my daughter so eloquently wrote and Mandy spoke, these teachers inspire me – not necessarily because of how their students are succeeding academically but because of all the ways they go above and beyond to make connections with students, families and their communities.
Amy T. Andersen, New Jersey Teacher of the Year, not only teaches American Sign Language to high school students, but she also supports parents who have deaf infants as they work to access the necessary services.
Texas Teacher of the Year Tara Bordeaux strives to create a safe, supportive environment for her students because she recognizes not all of them get the support they need outside the school walls.
Jonathan Juravich, Ohio Teacher of the Year, teaches kindness and empathy to his students through the visual arts.
Louisiana Teacher of the Year Kimberly Eckert’s work as a teacher extends well beyond the school day. She often gives rides home to many of her students to make sure they get home safely.
You can listen to many more of these teachers’ stories, thanks to our partnership with Google for Education.
Google for Education recorded interviews with each of the 2018 State Teachers of the Year and posted them to their YouTube channel this week. I encourage you to listen to these teachers, learn from their stories and take the time to drop them a note or seek out the teacher in your life who helped make a difference.
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