Commentary: Throughout National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 7-11, students, parents and communities across the country are expressing their gratitude to educators and acknowledging the crucial role they play in inspiring students’ curiosity and instilling a lifelong love of learning.
This year, National Teacher Appreciation Week coincides with a tremendous outpouring of teacher activism, and the NEA—the largest union in the United States—is recognizing teachers for starting a movement and challenging the status quo. Educators from West Virginia to Arizona are standing with parents, students, and community groups to demand more resources for students and better working conditions to attract and retain caring, committed, qualified educators. After several years in which funding for public schools has stagnated or even fallen, teachers are demanding the support and learning environments that students in every neighborhood deserve.
“This week-long celebration provides a wonderful and timely opportunity to thank teachers for their hard work throughout the year to help ensure the success of each and every student,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “It’s no surprise, though, that teachers are increasingly frustrated with inadequate funding, low pay and lack of resources for their students and are making their voices and the voices of their students heard loud and clear.”
In recent months, tens of thousands of red-shirted teachers and education support professionals have rallied outside their state capitols, demanding that lawmakers provide the resources to ensure that students have inviting classrooms and a well-rounded education that nurtures their creativity and passion for learning. These teachers are demanding that their states increase spending on textbooks, technology, and other classroom resources, support services such as before- and after-school care, and pay and benefits that will attract and keep great educators.
“I am so proud of our colleagues in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, and beyond,” said Eskelsen García. “I am so inspired by their message: They love their students too much to allow the lack of support for students, schools, and educators to continue. Their decision to take a stand for themselves as trusted professionals inspires me. They are calling out those in power, demanding that they provide teachers with the resources we need to set students off toward a great future.”
On Wednesday, May 9, NEA is supporting the #REdforEd campaign, encouraging the public to show appreciation for those who are advocating for better learning conditions for their students and pay and benefits commensurate with the demands and responsibilities of teaching. The #REDforEd campaign is asking people to show solidarity and wear red, and to share their reasons for supporting the campaign on social media.
NEA has once again partnered with the National PTA on the #ThankATeacher campaign. The campaign asks supporters to say “thank you” by sharing photos of themselves with messages of gratitude on their social media platforms.
Also during Teacher Appreciation Week, Sherry Shaw, an Alaska paraeducator and NEA’s 2018 Education Support Professional (ESP) of the year, will be honored in Washington D.C. as one of the 2018 Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award winners. Five award winners from across the country are being honored for making extraordinary and inspirational contributions in their schools and communities to promote quality education, foster positive learning environments, and ensure student success.
National Teacher Day began in 1953 when Eleanor Roosevelt proposed that Congress set aside a day to acknowledge the work of educators. Since 1985, NEA has celebrated National Teacher Day on the Tuesday of the first full week of May. For more information on National Teacher Day visit www.nea.org/teacherday.
“Teachers truly believe in children and they give us all so much: A boost of confidence when we really need one. Extra help and one-on-one attention when we’re having trouble with a lesson or even having a tough time at home. A welcoming presence when everything else seems out of control,” said Eskelsen García. “And though we know we can’t ever thank them enough, we can take a moment during National Teacher Appreciation Week to share our appreciation for the special educators in our lives. Appreciation alone will not reduce the challenges teachers face, and that’s why today’s advocacy is so important. But when we take the time to say “thank you,” we are letting teachers know their efforts are not going unnoticed.”