Let’s Celebrate Our Profession

Across our state, schools have seen shortages in certified teaching applicants.
The causes for this dilemma are numerous, but instead of focusing on these challenges, I’d like to celebrate some of the young men and women who have answered the call to teach with passion and enthusiasm.

First of all, let me tell you about the teachers in my own building.

They are men and women who love their subjects and love students.

They come to school every day to instruct and manage hundreds of students in various tasks that require planning, problem-solving, counseling, coaching, and so much more.

One teacher in our school left a well paying corporate position last year as a bi-lingual sales rep to teach Spanish for our students. Lately she is experimenting with students using Google Voice as a way for them to record oral samples to email her for review.

Another one of our teachers earned an engineering degree from Purdue and ran her own business before taking the plunge into teaching math. She loves math and she is teaching with determination and passion.

We have a teacher who formerly practiced law. While counseling minors in tough legal battles, she was inspired to work in schools. In addition to teaching history, she completed certification in Japanese and teaches one of the only high school Japanese courses in our state.

I could go on and on about the former health care specialists, stay-at-home moms, NCAA athletes, veterinary students turned teachers and many other talented individuals who have traded former vocations to walk the halls of the school building every day.

And then there are the many who chose teaching as their first love and have never looked back.

All of them have a special story. And I know you could tell the same stories of the heroes at your schools and organizations.

These heroes are not just teachers; they are also staff members, counselors, directors, and administrators.

Other Examples of Hope
Last week I was attending some training on assessments in Texas when I had the privilege of sitting in class with approximately twenty young, rock-star teachers.

With every session, these elementary and secondary teachers of science, math, fine arts, (and more) were eagerly engaged and consistently asking good questions.

They were laughing, bubbling with excitement, and thrilled to talk about their students and schools.

I soon learned that these young teachers were Fellows of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), a program that partners with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to identify and support students with significant leadership potential.

On one session break, I observed Janae Williams, a TMCF Fellow and resource teacher for gifted students at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford County, Virginia.

Ms. Williams was checking in with her morning class via video-chat on her cell phone. Her substitute teacher was allowing her elementary students to watch and listen and talk to her on the classroom Smart Board.

I met another Fellow, Donovan Maxwell, a 6th grade Earth Science teacher from Monroe County Middle School in Forsyth, Georgia. Mr. Maxwell was excitedly working with a team and then meticulously writing samples of their questions to share with others.

Teacher Eric Vinson, was beaming with enthusiasm. He is a Grade Level Chair and Head Start teacher for Nalle Elementary in Washington, D.C. He started his venture in education as a second career.

When Eric and I were visiting, he told me about his involvement with other “TMCF Fellows” as they call themselves.

“When I first met them,” he explained, “I couldn’t believe that such young people were having such deep conversations about student learning. They inspire me.”

Sometimes it easy to grow discouraged about the negative coverage schools often receive. But the educators I see everyday, and teachers like the ones I met from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund inspire me too.

As I end the second decade of my career in education, I am hopeful that young people who love learning, mentoring, inspiring, and motivating are stepping into the ranks of the profession of education.

So let’s celebrate the heroes among us as well as encourage the courageous ones who are running to meet the challenges and opportunities of the next generation.

Now It’s Your Turn
I know you have some heroes you can celebrate from your school or team. How have you been inspired by someone lately?

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker