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With teachers, we must appreciate everyday greatness

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Mary Bell
May 6, 2008

Early in my first year as a teacher at Rhinelander High School, one of my sophomore English students inhaled the cap of his blue Bic pen and quickly turned his own shade of indigo.


I remember his name, but I won’t mention it here. After the foreign object had been removed from this student’s breathing passage and he rejoined a somewhat distracted writing group, he sheepishly looked at me and said, “Thank you.”


That was 30 years ago. For educators, a little appreciation can go a long way.


We don’t save lives every day. But we do, I believe, help make young lives richer and brighter. Teachers and education support professionals help put children in touch with their potential and introduce them to some of their possibilities. And because great schools benefit everyone, helping students prepare for their futures helps all of us live in better communities and enjoy better lives.


The public schools we have today are the result of the investments, ingenuity and commitment of our parents and grandparents. It takes teamwork: students, parents, schools and communities working together for a brighter future. Today’s teachers and education support professionals build on that legacy of excellence with the outstanding work they do every day in our great schools.


Did you know that more than 500 Wisconsin teachers have achieved National Board Certification, the highest credential in the teaching profession? They have. Or that 99.5 percent of Wisconsin teachers meet the strict federal standards for being “highly qualified,” the highest percentage in the nation? It’s true.


Our educators’ hard work and preparation contribute to the impressive results our students achieve. Year after year, Wisconsin has one of the nation’s best high school graduation rates. And for the past 18 years, Wisconsin’s high school seniors have scored first or second on the national ACT college entrance exam.


How do our investments in students’ individual and collective successes benefit everyone? When Inc. and Expansion Management magazines ranked Wisconsin among the best in the nation for locating businesses, the articles cited the excellent preparation young people receive in our state’s public schools as one of the most important factors.


May 4-10 is Teacher Appreciation Week. It is one week out of the year when we are all reminded to take time to thank an educator who helped us find our niche or had a positive impact on the children closest to us.


This year, WEAC makes it easier to thank teachers for contributing to Wisconsin’s high quality of life. We have put together an easy-to-use e-card that you can send to the teachers you appreciate. You can go to http://ibelieve.weac.org/ and select “Watch, Listen, Share” at the bottom of the screen, and then “Share E-Cards” at the top of the screen.


For the teachers who receive them, your words of appreciation might be like a breath of fresh air.


Mary Bell is president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union; Web site www.weac.org.

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