This Teacher Appreciation Week, I am reminiscing about Ms. Holmes, my fifth grade teacher. I never could understand why this woman made so many sacrifices for me, how much she truly loved me, and how much she absolutely believed in me. Part of the reason I am who I am today is because of her—because I know what can happen when a teacher never gives up on a student. Her impact reverberates still to this day.
And, I had to smile thinking about my 11th grade English teacher Ms. Liz for growing my love of literacy and motivating me to follow in her footsteps and become an English teacher. She saw something in me that I did not see myself.
That is the power of a great educator, they can see into the future and call up those things deep down inside of students and speak them into existence.
This Teacher Appreciation Week is very different than any other one we’ve ever had. In years past, I would grab a few gifts for my children’s teachers, and they would take them into school as a gesture of their—and our—appreciation. Last week, I found myself helping my son write a letter to mail to his teacher’s house, thinking about what I could send that would be useful this year. And I absolutely have a deeper, more profound, level of appreciation for his teacher this year.
It was vital to me—in this moment, in this time—to recognize and honor my son’s teacher who, for the first time in his schooling, truly sees my son for not just who he is, but who he may become. Mrs. Lyles ensures that my son is healthy, safe, engaged and challenged.
Although the brick and mortar schools may be closed, school is still in session. And even though my son is sad about not being able to physically be with his friends, the activities that she has designed to bring them together and the seeds of love that she planted all year long, have made the distance not so distant at all. The impact that she has made on his life is immeasurable, as she has inspired a little boy who once hated school to foster a love of learning.
I needed to email his principal, Ms. Johnson, and thank her for taking the time to get to know my son so that she could know who would be best suited to meet his individual needs. I needed to thank her for hiring such an amazing group of educators who really care about the whole child!
I hope during this Teacher Appreciation Week, you take some time to thank teachers for everything they do! They literally shifted from face-to-face instruction to remote learning in a matter of weeks–days in some cases—and they continue to provide continuity of learning in short order. Taking the time to say thank you, especially in this moment, is the least we can do.
While many people are yearning for when we can “get back to normal,” I am preparing myself for the world that we will live in from now on. We must face the reality that things will be different for our families, our students and our teachers. There is no “going back.” There is only moving forward.
If we know one thing, it’s that teachers are resilient, flexible, and up for the new way forward that lies ahead. The ways we honor educators will need to shift, but we must continue to honor them nonetheless. Take some time this week to pause and thank an educator. We are because they are…
Kelisa Wing is the author of "Weeds & Seeds: How To Stay Positive in the Midst of Life’s Storms" and "Promises and Possibilities: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline" (both available on Amazon). She also is a 2017 State Teacher of the year, speaker, teacher and activist for discipline reform. Kelisa holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland University College, a ...