Teachers Thanking Teachers

Ms. King (front left) and her 9th grade English class at Washington-Lee High School.

Ms. King (front left) and her 9th grade English class at Washington-Lee High School.

During Teacher Appreciation Week, we’ve seen videos and read countless Tweets from students and former students thanking a teacher who made a difference for them. Over the last few days, I’ve been struck particularly by the number of excellent teachers who attribute their skill in the classroom to another teacher who reached out to them at an important time.

At a National Education Association ceremony this week that honored educators to be inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame, I was inspired by Glen Lid, who teaches chemistry in Illinois.

Though Lid described himself as a verbose and proud educator, his first instinct when receiving recognition was to pay tribute to the teachers who he said make his work possible. “I will own and accept my part of this honor,” he began. Quickly, however, he pivoted to lauding his school community, the cadre of incredible teachers whom he has worked with over the past 33 years. According to Lid, these educators deserve the credit for creating the conditions of collaboration and community that allowed him to thrive.

Teachers thanking teachers may have been the theme of the evening with Hall of Fame inductees. Jim Brooks, an English teacher from Millers Creek, N.C., described at least three teachers who made a difference in his life, beginning with an homage to his first-grade teacher, Mrs. Shepherd, who consoled him for the first two weeks of his school career, when he walked into class every day in tears. He ended with a beautiful poem by a university professor who later prepared him to teach well.

Both Brooks and Scott Charlesworth-Seiler, from Crystal, Minn., are National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT). The presence of so many celebrants from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards reminded me that I should thank the many teachers who helped me achieve NBCT status ten years ago. John Douglas, Kelly Crisp, and George Manning met with me weekly and—even after teaching and grading papers all day—volunteered hours to read and reread long entries, to scrutinize videos, to check my packing materials, and to offer honest feedback.

This year, another incredible teacher in Arlington, Va. willingly relinquished her time and her students to help me to renew my National Board Certification while I continued to work temporarily at the U.S. Department of Education. Caroline King, who teaches 9th and 12th grade English at Washington and Lee High School, gave up control of her classroom for many days this winter and proved what all teachers know, that when a teacher needs serious help, she always asks another teacher.

As I addressed Mother’s Day cards this week, it occurred to me that Teacher Appreciation Week is a lot like Mother’s Day. Everyone knows that we should always appreciate the mothers and teachers who have nurtured and loved us, who have made us strong and seen in us hidden talents waiting to be unleashed. Still, it’s nice to have a day to remind us to do what we ought to do every day—appreciate them, honor them, thank them. So, thank you, Ms. King!

Laurie Calvert

Laurie Calvert is a Teacher Liaison on loan from Enka High School in Candler, N.C.