Teacher, you’re still my hero.

This is typically one of my favorite weeks as an educator– Teacher Appreciation Week! A time when administrators and students and parents take time from their busy schedules to show love to my favorite people in the world–teachers. For one week (although is should be much longer in my humble opinion), you are showered with words and cards and gifts, reflecting the work you’ve been doing all year. But this year is different, I know. You don’t get to spend this special week with the reason you do this work–the kids. You are working remotely, trying to keep up with grades and manageable lessons and parent/student contacts. You are worried that some of your students may not be taken care of in their homes. You are trying to teach your own children while also ensuring your students get what they need as learners. This is certainly not what you signed up for when you became a teacher. We know that. Your students know that. I know this job can sometimes be difficult on a normal day, but it’s even more difficult at this time. And still–more often than not–this job is thankless, but that’s okay. Because you don’t do it for the “thanks.” And heaven knows, you certainly don’t do it for the money.

You do it for the kids.

You teach to inspire our youth and open their minds to new learning and growth. Daily, you give them mirrors, you give them windows, and you give them doors. For that, we are incredibly thankful.

Last year, I asked a group of my students to write one card to a teacher that has impacted them. And what I noticed was awesome. Students couldn’t write just one card. They came to me over and over again to get another card for another teacher…and another…and another. They asked me if they could write to teachers they had in younger grades too. It was immediately evident that teachers’ impacts lasted far beyond a single year or campus. I watched as thank you notes piled on my desk, thanking teachers for loving them when it seemed like no one else did, praising teachers for always going above and beyond for them. Not once on those cards did I see, “Thanks for teaching me math.” And nowhere did a kid say, “Thanks for teaching me English.” No. Every card revealed the real impact of teachers. Not their ability to teach the subject, but their ability to teach the student. That’s all our kiddos need from us, really. Connection. They want to know that we value them, that we see them, that we love them.

So teachers, thank you for that.

Thank you for making the somewhat uncomfortable and rapid shift to online learning so students not only continue to learn but also feel value and love.

Thank you for coming early and staying late and spending your much-needed summer vacation in professional development to ensure our students have the tools they need for success.

Thank you for learning everything you can about basketball or robots or dinosaurs or hog dogs or the Vampire Diaries because you know your kiddos enjoy those things.

Thank you for giving up hours with your own family to dedicate yourself to someone else’s kid.

Thank you for smiling when you want to cry.

Thank you for reflecting on your lessons so you can be better for next year’s students…. and the next year’s.

Thank you for listening to students who have never been able to share their voice before.

Thank you for keeping drawers of snacks and food because you know some will not eat after 3:30.

Thank you for cleaning up messes you didn’t make because you want that lesson to be more memorable than any other.

Thank you for keeping a closet of hygiene products in case a student didn’t have running water that morning…or that year.

Thank you for covering for your teaching sister so she could go to her child’s school program.

Thank you for listening to parents as their anger at the world sometimes lands on your shoulders.

Thank you for sitting in the stands and cheering on your students as they succeed on the field, especially when their own families couldn’t make it.

Thank you for comforting a group of students after losing a classmate in an extremely tragic way.

Thank you for keeping a box of pencils (that you have to refill every semester) because some students are more worried about how they will sleep with all the fighting in their home than how they will write at school.

Thank you for sharing in your student’s pain as they relive the death of a loved one.

Thank you for spending your hard-earned money so that your students could have new books or candy or incentives.

Thank you for going above and beyond your contract duties and hours to make sure your students are ready for the next day…. year….life.

Thank you for the tears you’ve shed over the joys and pains of teaching.

Thank you for the worry you carry as students leave you for summer.

Thank you for doing what’s right instead of what is popular.

Thank you for loving the lovable and the unlovable.

Thank you for being someone’s hero.

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