You wouldn’t be able to read this sentence without a teacher who cared about you. The one who sat there, day by day, teaching you 26 little shapes that make up the alphabet. If it weren’t for that person who made reading a reality for hundreds of people in your community, this would all be gobbledegook.
Countless little things we do every day — paying a bill, reading a map, writing an email — would be impossible without teachers passing knowledge down to the next generation. They make our careers possible, our families vibrant, and our democracies functional.
When the pandemic paused in-person learning, we saw just how many important roles teachers play in our lives and communities. They create safe classrooms for students of every stripe to learn and interact with each other away from whatever their situations are at home. They give working parents a chance to focus on their jobs. They volunteer for countless community organizations. Forced into our homes, it quickly became clear that teachers can be unofficial family members, caregivers, and community members of their own right.
In recent years, they’ve faced overcrowded classrooms, shoestring budgets, and an uncertain adaptation to remote learning, on top of the challenges we’ve all endured over the past few years. But all too often, teachers’ hard work goes unappreciated.
Elementary and Middle School teachers earn an average of $67,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, putting their annual income roughly on the same level as executive assistants, dieticians, and crane operators. These are all important jobs of their own, but shouldn’t we give a little more to the people who make such basic skills as reading, writing, math, and social lives possible?
What do you wish you could tell the teachers who made a difference in your life? In each issue going forward, Kidizenship will publish thank you letters from current and former students written to the teachers who forever changed their lives. You’ll hear about the moments big and small that gave authors the confidence, power, and knowledge they needed to become the people they are today. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to write your own — a thank you is the least we can do.