Thank a Teacher – Today, Tomorrow and Everyday

This week, we at NWEA join others around the nation in saying thank you to America’s teachers. So we’re sharing stories of important teachers who shaped NWEA staff, educators from the over 7,800 districts and schools with whom we work, and a few “guest stars.” The educational experience in America is as diverse as the country itself – this week you’ll hear about a rural educator who literally went the extra mile to make sure that a little girl got a good start; a college professor who taught his student (now our CEO) during extended chess games; a most proper social studies teacher; a French teacher who changed his ways – and many more.

A few observations:

  • You never forget the name of the teacher who touched your life
  • The teachers we remember are the ones who saw into us
  • They also let us see them (you’ll meet some real characters this week, not afraid to employ a little wackiness to make learning irresistible)

The timing of Teacher Appreciation week follows the culmination of national Teacher of the Year program. NWEA is proud to help sponsor this event, which is run by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Last week, I was honored to meet with all of the state and territorial Teachers of the Year, as well as Shanna Peeples, the National Teacher of the Year, a high school English teacher from Amarillo, Texas.

Take a look at what President Obama had to say about Ms. Peeples – but I’m warning you, it’s a two-hanky story (at least!).

NWEA CEO Matt Chapman, Shanna Peeples, 2015 National Teacher of the Year, and Johnny L. Veselka, Exec. Dir. of TASA

NWEA's Jean Fleming, Kelly Goodrich, and Matt Chapman, with Michael Lindblad, 2015 Oregon Teacher of the Year, and his wife Angela.

These are passionate, inspiring people, smart and committed to the students they nurture. All – and I mean all – of them spoke with urgency about poverty and equity, the issues their students face every day. Their classes are filled with the children of those who come to America seeking greater opportunities. With warmth and a mama bear’s ferocity, these teachers welcome every single child into their rooms and their hearts, and coax them into the light of their own unique gifts.

I was fortunate to have many wonderful teachers – and diverse learning environments – on my path. But the one who inspired me to become a teacher was Philip Rusten, my 8th and 9th grade English teacher.

He was perfectly adapted to his junior high environment, full of squirrelly students bouncing up and down. At his desk, he had a 3×5 card that just had one word on it: NO. Very useful when addressing the constant requests for bathroom passes. More than his classroom management skills, however, was his ability to see into each student. He helped me identify my strengths, coached me through a time of personal challenge in ad hoc afterschool conversations, and many years later, mentored me when I became a middle school teacher myself – in part to pay forward the great gifts he had given me.

So this week, and every week, let’s be sure to #ThankATeacher. They touch the future and we are all enriched by the work they do.