Teachers’ Favorite Moments During Teacher Appreciation Week

What a week!

All year long, we at the U.S. Department of Education seek to bring teachers’ perspectives to our work and to understand, as much as possible, their classroom realities. Just last week, we hosted conversations with National Hall of Fame Teachers and State Teachers of the Year, and  every week of the year we talk with teachers about their work and what they need from us.

Still, Teacher Appreciation Week is different. During Teacher Appreciation Week we honor our nation’s educators in special ways.

The current and former teachers at ED compiled some of our favorite moments in a short list of memories that resonate with us.


Secretary Duncan chats with teachers during Marie Reed Elementary School’s Teacher Appreciation Breakfast (Photo credit: Leslie Williams/Dept. of Education)

ED Goes Back to School: Department staff working in Washington, D.C. and at the nine regional offices shadowed more than 70 teachers around the country. They prepped for their school visits by attending a pre-shadowing workshop hosted by teachers at ED, who offered insights into lesson planning. Through the extended visits, ED officials experienced slivers of insight into the complex and fast-paced world of teaching. At the end of the day, ED hosted a debriefing session and reception in which ED staff honored the teachers they shadowed, along with Secretary Duncan.

  • At J.A. Rogers Elementary in Kansas City, Mo., ED’s Jeanne Ackerson met Library Media Specialist Paula York’s unique co-worker: a live-in dog (a boxer) who helps to calm fears, relieve anxieties and teach skills to inner-city children. York said she gets great satisfaction when students leave her classroom with a love for reading. 
  • ED’s Jamila Smith, who observed third grade and kindergarten teachers Laura Arkus and Nicole Entwisle at Hyattsville Elementary School (Hyattsville, Md.), was the first to speak at the end-of-day debriefing. “These two teachers handled 21+ kids all day long and they never stopped,” she said. “Yet each kid was touched, each child was heard, and everyone was reached.”
  • After the day of shadowing Kalpana Kumar Sharma at Brightwood Education Campus (Washington, D.C.), ED’s Joy Silvern told the teachers who visited the Department, “We will only get the right answers [to address education challenges] if we stay grounded in your experience and knowledge.”
  • Shannon Schwallenberg teaches 3-year-olds at who are at a 6-month developmental level at Frances Fuchs Early Childhood Center (Beltsville, Md.). She explained to staff why teachers spend so much of their own money on school supplies. Though she receives six butterflies with her class butterfly kit, Schwallenberg said she buys more because, “I want each child to have the authentic experience of releasing their own butterflies.”

Teacher Social at the White House: Twenty-two enthusiastic teachers from around the country participated in a White House social with honorary “First Teacher of the United States” Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary Duncan.

  • Teachers’ tweets from the event were inspirational and fun. One (@TheMathLady) wrote, “Ya know, just another day of hanging out on the South Lawn of the White House.” Meanwhile, Teaching Ambassador Fellow Joiselle Cunningham got a little disoriented on the property and temporarily lost Secretary Duncan.  
  • Teaching Ambassador Fellow Lisa Clarke reported that while talking with the teachers, she heard Secretary Duncan repeat at least three lessons he had learned from listening to teachers who were shadowed by ED staff. “The teachers really were heard,” said Clarke, “and he learned from them.

Leadership Calls: Each day of the week, Arne Duncan called a teacher to thank them for their work and talk about their leadership. Here are highlights from two of the calls:

  • After failed attempts to reach him through a cell phone, Arne connected via landline with Mark Garner, a high school teacher at Camas High School (Camas, Wa.). The call, caught on video at the school, shows interesting interactions among Duncan, Garner and Garner’s ninth grade English class.
  • Prior to talking with Marca Whitten, who teaches at the Studio School in the Glassell Park community of Los Angeles, Calif., Duncan spoke with her principal, Leah Raphael. Raphael was a 2010 Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the Department, and when former boss Arne Duncan asked how she liked starting a school, she said, “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Later, Whitten explained to Duncan how the school community chose Raphael as its principal. “We met and I knew within 30 seconds,” she said. “How did I know? Well, she speaks from the heart, she listens from the heart, and she’s smart, smart, smart.”

Marie Reed Elementary’s Teacher Appreciation Breakfast: Teachers were a little overcome by a surprise visit from Dr. Jill Biden and Arne Duncan during the Washington, D.C. school’s Teacher Appreciation Breakfast.

  • One fourth-year teacher with tears in her eyes said, “Jill Biden is a rock star… I only got to speak to her for a moment, mostly because I couldn’t even get words to come out of my mouth when she came to my table.”
  • Veteran teacher Maggie Davis talked with Duncan about retiring from the profession after 36 years of accomplished teaching. She said she feels good about the direction of the profession and how the vision of the principal has sharpened. She also said she believes that there is more good to come.

#ThankATeacher: ED added to the national #ThankATeacher conversation via social media by providing signs for folks to use to record why they are thankful for teachers and asking them to share pictures of them and their signs.

  • Teacher appreciation was contagious. The #ThankATeacher tweet with card from @usedgov reached potentially about half a million users, and the hashtag #ThankATeacher was used in over 42,000 Tweets during the last seven days.
  • The tweets from students, parents and teachers—including the State Teachers of the Year—reminded us all why we do this work. The simple student pictures thanking teachers for “being nice” and “teaching me division” really tug at our hearts.
  • Around the building, staff posted on doors and cubicle walls all manner of messages to teachers they have loved, thanking them for: “believing in me”; “not giving up, no matter what”; and “introducing me to bow ties.”

During Teacher Appreciation Week, it is nice to bring teachers cards and doughnuts. But it’s also a little bit strange because we wouldn’t take our doctor a cupcake or drop by an architect’s office to pass out cookies. At ED, we seek to appreciate teachers by actively trying to understand what they do.

Laurie Calvert is a 14-year National Board Certified Teacher from Asheville, North Carolina, and the Department’s Teacher Liaison.

Honoring Veteran Teachers Inducted into the Hall of Fame

Although Teacher Appreciation Week begins today, officials at the Department of Education started celebrating early by honoring the five experienced teachers who were inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame last Friday.

Teacher Hall of Fame

Secretary Duncan spoke at a ceremony honoring teachers inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame last week. The teachers were also invited to ED to talk about education policy, but they also impressed staff with their passion to the profession.

The teachers were invited to the Department of Education to talk about their practice and to discuss education policy with a number of senior-level officials. From the beginning of the conversation, however, the teachers wowed us by their passion for their students and their subjects—and by their humility.

  • Beth Vernon, a science teacher from Missouri, described herself as someone who figured out early on that she had to make a classroom that she wanted to sit in. Vernon has created a CD compilation of songs about science to engage her students called Beth Vernon’s Rock Collection. Still, Vernon described herself as the winner of “the most surprised” teacher to be honored at the Hall of Fame and discussing policy at ED.
  • Darryl Johnson, a language arts teacher also from Missouri, described his path to teaching as an unlikely one. The youngest of three boys, he was the first person in his family to attend college, and even when he did his student teaching, he wasn’t sure this was the profession for him. What changed Johnson’s path was observing how his lesson on the story “No News from Auschwitz (Rosenthal)” affected a student in the back row of his class.  When he realized the effect he could have on individual students, he was all in. Since then, Johnson was selected as a Missouri State Teacher of the Year (2007), and he has earned and renewed his National Board Certification.
  • Martha McLeod, “born and raised on a cattle ranch in Texas,” says it is important for her to help “kids in poverty” to connect what they learn in her 5th grade science class to the rest of the world.  Her school recycling program has won numerous awards, but she admits that she doesn’t run the program for the accolades. “I want my kids to know that we are not a throw-away society,” she explained.
  • As a rural student living in Northern Maryland, Rebecca Gault was homeschooled in grades 6-12. Lessons from her mother were so organized that got a notecard of objectives every week, telling what she should do and what she should learn. On Fridays, she took the tests in every subject. From her mother, Gault says she learned the tremendous importance of getting an education. “She told me, education should be something you would die for,” she said.
  • Deborah Cornelison describes her high school science class in Oklahoma as a STEM classroom before teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) was cool. Not only has she been lauded for exceptional, experiential teaching, but Cornelison has been involved in creating authentic professional learning for science teachers. Of the Teacher Hall of Fame award, she said, “I especially value this honor because it values career teachers.”

Those participating in a conversation with these honorees couldn’t have agreed with Cornelison more.

Laurie Calvert is the Department of Education’s Teacher Liaison. Prior to this, she taught for 14 years in Asheville, N.C.

From Digital Doubter to Tech Guru

Teacher and student work together using technology

Chicago teacher Jennie Magiera was a tech skeptic, but has since successfully integrated technology into her classroom.

During a speech announcing the Department’s National Education Technology Plan, Secretary Arne Duncan noted that “technology empowers teachers like never before.” Once such teacher is Chicago’s Jennie Magiera. This is her story.

“Just bells and whistles.”

That’s how elementary math teacher Jennie Magiera described her feelings about the limited value of educational technology three years ago.

Today Magiera serves as Digital Learning Coordinator for the Academy for Urban School Leadership’s network of 25 Chicago Public Schools (CPS). As she trains others to use technology effectively, it is hard to imagine a time when she was so dismissive about technology in the classroom.

When iPads first came on the market, Magiera said, “I would openly mock my friends,” pointing out that they had just bought a “giant iPhone that can’t make calls.” The three computers in her classroom—clunky PCs that sat heavily on tables—were so old that one smoked when anyone dared to turn it on.

So how did this technologically impaired teacher come to be an advocate for digital learning in schools? For Magiera, the shift began in 2010 when 32 iPads arrived in her classroom. She admits that while she thought that technology wasn’t as amazing as a teaching tool as others seemed to believe, she still had a sense that her kids needed access to some devices to be successful. So Magiera applied for a grant to get a class set of tablets, pretty certain she would not get it.

Ironically, the grant readers at CPS called her bluff.

Read More

Kansas Students Weigh in on Education Reform

Mr Newell's Class

Dennis Newell and Abbi Moser with their class at Turning Point Academy. Newell is a National Board Certified Teacher who contacted the Department and collaborated on their students’ project.

A class of freshman and sophomore high school students from Turning Point Academy (Emporia, Kan.) participated in a video teleconference conversation with Department officials this week, to discuss their advice for reforming education in the U.S. Prior to the meeting, the students produced a 25-minute video outlining nine recommendations for improving the teaching profession and 21st century learning.

During the meeting, students urged the Department to promote project-based learning, access to educational technology, and the concept of flipped classrooms, among other things. Students told Brad Jupp, a senior advisor to Secretary Arne Duncan, that the goal of education should be broader than simply graduating from high school. Instead of helping students to retain facts, they argued that school should “teach me how to learn.” Morgan, a student at Turning Point, explained, “There’s more to life than just academics. It is about giving back to society in the end.”

ED Conference Call

ED staff hold a video teleconference with high schools students at Turning Point Academy.

Students also extolled the virtues of small school environments where they can learn at their own pace and follow their interests. Keegan said he benefits from being in a place where “failure is not an option,” where teachers insist on everyone learning the content. Keegan described an experience in another school where he was not motivated because he felt like “part of a factory assembly line” rather than like an individual. “Everyone needs something different,” Keegan said, “the other schools punish you for that.”

At the end of the session, Dillon described why this type of learning worked so well for him and his classmates. He said they learned to collaborate because “everyone had a stake in [the product]” because they “didn’t want to look like fools” in front of the U.S. Department of Education.

Mission accomplished.

Laurie Calvert is the Teacher Liaison at ED.  She is a 2010-11 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow and a classroom teacher from Asheville, N.C.

Read the blogs written by students at Turning Point Academy who participated in the project.

Beating the Odds (and the Naysayers)

Teachers at the Department of Education were impressed with the Terrel H. Bell principals that we met during this year’s Blue Ribbon Schools National Celebration, but Blaine Helwig, the principal of Graham Elementary School, stood out because he has done what many thought was impossible: using home-grown strategies that others thought wouldn’t work.

Principal of Graham Elementary School Blaine Helwig

Blaine Helwig, principal of Graham Elementary School accepts a check earlier this year after receiving an excellence in education award.

A self-proclaimed “upstart,” Helwig said that his experience as a systems designer helped him plan systems that work for students in his school. “Yes, I am a rebel,” he told us, “There can be no doubt of that. I will not follow a curriculum that is designed for children to fail or produce the level of academic results we are seeing continually in these urban schools.”

Helwig’s school is about 95 percent low-income. As reported in the Austin Statesman, the school has struggled for years because “it’s not rich (and) it’s located on the wrong side of town.” Yet, against the odds, the students at Graham are exceling. Since taking the helm in 2007, the school’s academic achievement has grown so much that every student at Graham who took the state math exam passed it.

Helwig attributes his school’s success to focusing on the variables he can control. While he can’t change students’ home environments or fix their poverty, he said that he can ensure they get what they need in his school.

Read two stories from the Statesman that reveal insights into Helwig’s leadership style and strategies:  “Austin District Should Build on Graham Elementary’s Success” and “A Model of Academic Success at Graham Elementary.”

Laurie Calvert is the Teacher Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education, a 2010 Teaching Ambassador Fellow, and a 14-year English teacher from Asheville, N.C.  

Back-to-School Tour in the News

Back-to-School Tour in the News -- West Virginia

The Education Drives America bus tour recently stopped in Illinois Kentucky and West Virginia. Check out some of the press coverage from the past few days of the Education Drives America back-to-school bus tour.

Lexington, Ky.

Jim Shelton spent two hours at Sayre School to see how this private school is using technology to replace textbooks in many of its classes and Tony Miller visited Picadome Elementary to learn about their work with foreign language instruction. Earlier, Shelton visited the New Franklin School District (Mo.) to see how schools are approaching inquiry-based learning.

Charleston, W.Va.

At Elk Elementary Center, Secretary Duncan toured the school to see the “great things” that West Virginia is doing to improve early learning and access to education and how the community is thinking very broadly about how to improve education.

Welch, W. Va.

Duncan attended town hall where educators outlined strategies to tackle impoverished McDowell County and help troubled schools, including improving literacy, offering housing options for teachers and parenting classes for pregnant teens. At Mount View High School, he heard from students and spoke about seeing their passion, a passion that indicates “they deserve the best.” Read about the “tremendous success” turning around the poorest of schools that the Department witnessed in the area.

Mt. Vernon, Ill.

The bus tour made a stop in Jefferson County to talk about partnerships between education and industry and to tour Rend Lake College and talk with students and staff. Learn about how programs like TRIO and STARS are giving students the resources they need to succeed in college.

Back-to-School Tour in the News

Back-to-School Tour in the News--Denver

On Monday, Secretary Duncan traveled to Denver to visit Lowry Elementary School with Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services, U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. In the afternoon, Duncan participated in a Constitution Day presentation in Limon, Colo. On Tuesday, Arne visited the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kan., and the National Teachers Hall of Fame in Emporia, Kan. He ended the day with a town hall meeting in Kansas City, Mo. Check out some of the press highlights from these events.

Denver and Limon, Colo.

Dance Off: Arne Duncan Schooled By Kathleen Sebelius? Arne participated in nutrition and fitness events at Lowry Elementary School and got quizzed on Constitution Day by “very smart fifth graders” in Limon. Read the story in EdWeek and view the video embedded in the story. Watch a video highlighting Duncan’s tour of the Lowry wellness program and the lunch he shared with students and a news report about the garden at Lowry, which food preparer “Princess Green” uses to make lunches for the school. Later Duncan told reporters, “What happens in Denver, what happens in Colorado has national implications.” “Bigwigs from Washington and Colorado… walk the walk, talk the talk… and get down a little” in Denver.

Topeka, Kan.

Speaking from the steps of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Arne called for educators to work to “close the opportunity gap” among students.

Offering an “eye-opening message about continued segregation across the country,” Duncan spoke with students, teachers and administrators about the opportunity gap. He pointed out that U.S. schools are more segregated now then they have been since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Duncan indicated that nearly 40 percent of black and Hispanic students attend schools where more than 90 percent of students are non-white. And he urged educators to do more to lower the dropout rate.
Emporia, Kan.

The Gazette in Emporia, which is home to the National Teacher Hall of Fame, ran a profile of the Secretary that included a biography of his early career and some highlights of his tenure at the U.S. Department of Education. Read Who is Arne Duncan?

Kansas City, Mo.

Arne held a Hispanic town hall with Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, and urged the nation to “stop playing catch up” with education.

As part of the wide-ranging discussion of education Secretary Duncan spoke with passion about the need for consistent educational leadership in Kansas City. He also talked about the importance of keeping our schools open more hours to make schools “the heart of the neighborhood” and help parents to become more involved.

Back-to-School Tour in the News: Day Two

Visiting Nevada and Utah as part of the Department’s “Education Drives America” back-to-school bus tour, Secretary Arne Duncan, Under Secretary Martha Kanter, Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss, and Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle, along with other Department officials, met with educators and community leaders to hear about the challenges they face and the progress they’re making. Check out some of the media coverage from this leg of the eight-day cross-country tour.

Reno, Nev.

Duncan cited data showing how the U.S. is not as competitive as it used to be.

Elko, Nev.

Great Basin College was the site of a panel discussion on American Indian education with Delisle and Bill Mendoza, director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Martha Kanter visited Glendale Middle School to study progress in Salt Lake City and review the effectiveness of school improvement programs “to find what’s working in schools across the U.S. and apply those strategies systemically.”

Teachers described how a federal School Improvement Grant made to Horizonte Instruction and Training Center is improving their effectiveness in the classroom, and students say they’re benefitting, too.

Teachers and Principals Get Engaged

Teachers at the Teacher Leader Convening

Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams

About 180 teachers, school principals and education advocates convened at the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters last Friday to make connections and engage in important conversations about how educators will lead the transformation of their profession.

With representatives from their leadership organizations, educators drilled down on a number of topics and made recommendations to the Department and the White House about ED’s next steps in the RESPECT Project. Justin Lamb, a New York City teacher with Educators 4 Excellence, suggested that the federal government help districts and unions to work together to carve out more roles for teacher leaders in schools. Glenn Morehouse Olson of the VIVA Project recommended that ED become more involved in raising the bar for what teachers coming into the field should know and be able to do, including adding more writing criteria and setting standards for alternative certification. Wendy Uptain of Hope Street Group described the power of convening accomplished teachers to “shine a spotlight” on areas of excellent practice and share successes, and she called for more such meetings.

Teachers discussing at the teacher leader convening

Teachers discussed how educators can lead the transformation of their profession. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.

A recurring theme of the day was the power of educators to drive their own profession.  “Teachers as leaders needs to be a linchpin of our efforts,” said Ann Byrd of the Center for Teaching Quality, “not a bullet point.” Several groups even argued that teachers should be allowed to apply directly for federal grants to implement innovative practices in their schools. (Federal education funds typically flow through states and school districts before reaching individual schools and classrooms.) Arthur Linder of the National Association of Secondary School Principals advocated for more distributed leadership in schools with strong instructional leaders.

Another common thread in the conversations was the public’s poor perception of the value of teaching and school leadership. Aaron Bredenkamp, an Omaha, Neb., math teacher on loan to ED as a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow, recommended that the Department work on “rebranding the profession” so that parents and taxpayers will support reform.  Washington Fellow Jen Bado-Aleman agreed and called for an advertising campaign that that would show the complex demands of great teaching and school leadership.

While commuting home at the end of the day, I got a text from a former ED teaching fellow who could not attend the event but who had just experienced a teachable moment that affirmed the importance of transforming teaching and the public perception of it. A high school junior had told him that she was having trouble deciding on a career. “The only two things I can see myself doing are nursing and teaching,” she told this teacher, “but I only have the grades to teach.”

I found myself very thankful that the educators in the room at ED were envisioning a future when students will say, “I need to get my grades up so that I can teach.”

Laurie Calvert

Laurie Calvert is the Teacher Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education, a 2010 Teaching Ambassador Fellow, and a 14-year English teacher from Asheville, N.C.  

Summer Seminar Gets Personal

Recently teachers from across the country participated in a summer seminar to grapple with an emerging hot topic in education:  how to personalize learning in a classroom full of diverse students with varying interests, skills and learning styles.

The seminar, held at the U.S. Department of Education and via webinar, included presenters who are current and former classroom teachers who offered both the theory and practical strategies for teachers interested in moving their classroom learning beyond a one-size-fits-all mentality.

Personalized Learning Video Image

Click to watch the second summer seminar on personalized learning.

ED’s Richard Culatta defined personalizing learning as a way if individualizing learning for each student in the room by adjusting the pace, adjusting the approach, and leveraging students’ individual interests and motivations. He presented examples of schools and programs to illustrate some of the ways these strategies are being used in schools to offer teachers, students and parents plenty of data and formative information that empowers them to create systems that adapt to meet each student’s learning needs.

STEM teacher Matt McCrea took participants through strategies he has used successfully when personalizing instruction for his middle school math and engineering classes.  While teaching math, for example, McCrea’s students checked a classroom computer board to see whether they would be working at a computer individually, engaging in a small group task, or reviewing concepts with a peer tutor, pairing with another student, or working with the teacher in a small group or one-on-one setting.

Special education teacher and technology specialist Patrick Ledesma discussed what teachers can do to prepare for personalizing learning and how teacher leaders can help other teachers in their school to design effective personalized learning.

One thing all of the presenters agreed on:  using technology to personalize learning does not reduce the need for an effective teacher in the classroom.  If anything, there is more of a need for teachers who know their students and engage with them, who plan effective lessons, seek out instructional resources, manage student behavior, monitor learning, and modify instruction.  It’s about “moving the teaching profession into the 21st century,” Ledesma said.

Laurie Calvert

Laurie Calvert is an English teacher from North Carolina currently serving as the Teacher Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.

View the Summer Seminars—including Civil Rights in the Classroom and What Teachers Need to Know about Personalized Learning—and download the slide presentations.

Read the National Technology Plan or the Executive Summary.

Join ED for Our Teacher Summer Seminars

You are invited! Join ED for our second annual Teacher Summer Seminars. This summer’s seminars–presented by teachers–will consider strategies used by teachers to ensure students’ civil rights in the classroom and to engage them through personalized learning.  The seminars take place at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., and teachers can also join online through our webinar.

#1 Civil Rights in the Classroom

Tuesday, June 26 from 6-7:30 pm (Eastern)

This seminar offers an overview of the Civil Rights Data Collection and practical advice from current teachers, a guidance counselor, and a parent about how to protect students’ civil rights in the classroom. Presenters will explore strategies to prevent bullying, engage all students, present culturally relevant lessons, and work with parents to ensure the rights of students with disabilities.

#2 What Teachers Need to Know about Personalized Learning

Tuesday, July 10 from 6-7:30 pm (Eastern)

This seminar presents perspectives on an emerging topic for educators: creating adaptive instruction for every student in the class. Presenters from the Department of Education will provide insights about the meaning, purpose, and future of personalized learning. Teachers will discuss how they use real-time data to individualize instruction and to engage students with varied abilities.

The seminars are offered both at the U.S. Department of Education (400 Maryland Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20202) and on the web.

The seminars are free but space is limited, so reserve your spot now!

Register for Seminar #1 (online or at ED), Civil Rights In the Classroom, June 26, from 6-7:30 PM (Eastern)

Register for Seminar #2 (online or at ED), What Teachers Need to Know About Personalized Learning, July 10, from 6-7:30 PM (Eastern)

Accommodations for persons with disabilities will be provided once requested at registration as long as the participant registers at least five working days prior to the seminar. 

For questions or comments, please email TeachTalk@ed.gov.

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.