Celebrating and Listening to Our Nation’s Teachers

So many of America’s teachers are amazing. Each day, they take on the extraordinary responsibility and highly complex work of moving all students forward. As I visit schools across the country and talk with teachers at the U.S. Department of Education, they astound me continually with what they accomplish every day. Not only are teachers some of the smartest, most compassionate people I know, but they do work that few of us could accomplish on our best days.

Secretary Duncan with teacher

Secretary Arne Duncan speaks with a teacher at Elk Elementary Center in Charleston, W.Va., during his 2012 back to school bus tour across America.

During Teacher Appreciation Week, the people who value teachers often take time to send them a note of thanks or a token of appreciation. This is appropriate. The least we can do once a year is to push “pause” on our lives and thank them in the short term. However, what our teachers really need—and deserve—is our ongoing commitment to work with them to transform America’s schools. They need us to acknowledge them as professionals who are doing our nation’s most important work. We can begin this work by making it a priority to listen to and to celebrate teachers.

Here are some ways we plan to listen to and to celebrate teachers at the Department of Education this week.

Listening. On Monday, May 6, we will host a Google hangout celebrating African-American educators around the country, broadcasting from the campus of Howard University. You can view the conversation – “Celebrating African-American Teachers in our Classrooms” – live at 4 pm Eastern or check out the archived version of the Hangout afterwards at our YouTube site. You can also follow the discussion on Twitter at #AfAmTeachers. On Wednesday and Friday, our Teaching Ambassador Fellows will host roundtable discussions with teachers of children with exceptionalities and teachers of English language learners. We want to know from them what is working in their schools, what is not working, and how we can better support them.

Celebrating. Every day this week I will be making phone calls to great teachers who are leading change from their classrooms. We will also be celebrating teachers on Twitter; please be part of that by using the hashtag #thankateacher. On Wednesday I will drop by a local Teacher Appreciation Breakfast to thank teachers for making tremendous progress closing gaps and raising achievement in their school. We are also hosting a reception at the Department for the more than 400 current and former teachers who work at the Department of Education, and talking about how we can better make use of their experiences to improve our work.

Walking in Teachers’ Shoes. One of my favorite activities all year long is our ED Goes Back to School Day, taking place this year on Thursday, May 9. More than 65 of my senior staff and regional officers will shadow a teacher for a day or half-day, witnessing firsthand how demanding and rewarding it can be to juggle reforms, pedagogy, and practice. After the shadowing, the teachers and staff will meet with me back at ED to talk about their experiences and share lessons learned. Last year our staff benefitted tremendously from the experience, talking about what they saw for months afterward and connecting their experiences with their daily work here.

I encourage everyone to take time this week to not only take a more active role honoring teachers, but to listen to them actively and to celebrate their great work. I hope this week will be your chance to ask a teacher, How can I support you in America’s most important work, all year long?

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education


  1. Being a teacher is difficult sometimes when you encounter such stuff you havent done before. I always draw my negative energy outside and release it so my teaching wont affect to.

  2. Dear Arne: I see the President beat you to the punch in appreciating teachers last week. In declaring National Charter Schools Week atop Teacher Appreciation Week, he speaks volumes about his commitment to the destruction of the teaching profession and the replacement of teachers in urban areas with untrained and uncertified corporate missionaries who work for two years and are then replaced with more of the same. The biggest irony of his Proclamation is that charter schools are leading the way to the resegregation of American schools and the behavioral sterilization of the poor. Pretty big stuff for a black guy who with a (D) after his name.



    It can never be denied that we inherit the entire earth from our omnipotent God and will in turn entrust it to our offspring. In order to uphold the beauty and abundance of our mother land, let’s learn to conserve.
    Conservation refers to planning and managing the natural resources. Therefore, did you manage and utilize it properly? Hopefully, yes!
    One morning, as I entered the school entrance looking around the vicinity, I felt so upset since there was a kind of rubbish greeted me instead of pupils to say good morning sir! Without knowing underneath my feet are peelings of banana which made me about to slide. It made me so sad observing the pupils who were just playing in the school plaza instead of cleaning inside and outside the classroom. Since the beginning, I never blamed myself even once because every now and then I remind my class advisory to maintain cleanliness wherever they go.
    What do you think are the factors to be considered if why almost all public schools experiencing this simple predicament but difficult to answer? Are we, as teachers, administrators, pupils and parents are deserved for the guilt?
    As a teacher, it is our duties and responsibilities to teach, guide, direct, motivate and facilitate young learners for learning. We all understand the pupils’ behavior inside and outside the classroom. We know the different environmental influences better than their parents at home. It is on our shoulder lies the way our young citizens to digest on and apply the importance of conservation in their daily lives. Without question, we are the first agent of changing a profuse world.
    It is evident that believers and practitioners in the conservation of natural resources feel obligated to pass a better earth to their children than what they have received. Now, if you can own the whole world, what will you do with it? Will you develop the green forest, plow everything up till it turns into wasted and barren lands, destruct and pester the wild’s habitat, burn all the coal and oil, defile the air, rivers and ocean? Will you plunder your own world? Will you lead your children to feel hatred and worry of what the tomorrows might bring? Please desist! Instead you may use it in a way that benefits as much as for future as it does for present.
    The spirit of conservation is neither tedious nor arduous to follow; however, people nowadays are just ignoring the natural resources rather than the goods they can take from it. How can we dodge the possible sequel that may happen due to the rambunctious deeds of human? It is said, “What you plant is what you reap”, thus, if our nurturing mother earth suffers because of us, indeed, we must prepare to sacrifice for whatever we did to her will come back at us.
    It is horrible to deem that one day, there will be no more earth for us to subsist. The reality is that, instead of giving implication to all indispensable things which are the priceless gifts of the nature, all we do are exploiting and exhausting our natural resources much more than we are protecting, replacing and conserving them. We should care for our environment to ensure the security and protection of the coming generation who will pass their judgment on us.
    It is crucial to ponder that their can only be life for tomorrow if we safeguard the wealth which we have nowadays. The little things we do like throwing our candy wrappers and plastics trashes anywhere may just be insignificant to us but when they hoard will form pollutants that can even outlive human existence.
    Hence, at this contemporary era, every country calls for teachers who are willing to commit themselves being a mediator of CONSERVATION. Let us spread our wings and together we’ll make a great difference.
    Remember, there will be no next time to decide if what’s the exact opportunity to be a conservation-earth-conscious, it is now!

    I give credit to all teachers who actually care about our children and not just a pay check. I also give extra credit to teachers who take care of special needs classes. This week I would like Mr. Altersitz from Mary F. Janvier School in Franklinville, NJ. He is a special needs teacher. He is my son’s teacher with whom has asbergers. My son is 8 years old and I know he can be a handful at times. I also would like to thank class helper Mrs. Jill, I know she is great with my son. and all the teachers that have him in class. I hope someone can recognize them.
    Nadine Siracusa
    Franklinville, NJ 08322

  5. I agree with each of the commentators before me. Great idea, more people should do it (especially legislators) and should do it more often! The public, including those who make education laws, often have not been in the classroom since they were students. They are highly misinformed about what actually happens on a daily basis and how things have changed.

    Any reforms should include veteran teachers in all discussions. The best ideas on earth are not always practical in a classroom.

  6. Thank you for actually going into schools to see what happens. Could we require legislators to do the same? (Not as a big deal, “look at me” photo op, but to actually watch a normal day of school?).

    • I agree. Mr. Duncan and his reforming friends like Michelle Rhee are doing more to ruin public education than any “ineffective” teacher. The mania about high stakes testing, charter schools, and the drive to make education a business is a disaster. The reform movement has become a cash cow for companies like Pearson and Discovery Ed. who turn out poorly written assessments to meet an illegal common core curriculum.

  7. That is wonderful that you have “ED goes back to school” day. I respectfully suggest that to make that effective you should do it at least quarterly, if not monthly.

    Karen Green
    Ashland High School
    Ashland OR

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