The week of May 4-8 is Teacher Appreciation Week. This week is an opportunity to reflect on the impact that teachers have had on our own lives when we went to school and to also thank our children’s teachers for their hard work and the positive effect that they have on our students. Please join me for the next few minutes, as I share with you some stories of a few of our current students who, through the support of many of our teachers, have overcome challenges and blossomed as students.
|Ottavio with his teacher, Nina Balfe|
The Killam PTO and community have also been supportive and have sent generous donations for the family. They were able to connect with an organization, Family Reach, who will sponsor a marathon runner, Jason Beulow, who will run at the Boston Marathon this Monday on Ottavio’s behalf. The money Jason raises will be used to help offset Ottavio’s medical expenses.
Huixin has made amazing progress through the supports provided by her classroom teachers, her ELL teachers Carla Pennachio and Karen Hall, and her connections with her peers.
|Huixin as Betsy Ross|
Holly is an eighth grade student at Coolidge Middle School who has struggled at times in school. In December, Holly had the opportunity to participate in Challenge Day, a full-day event in which 8th grade students and adults alike broke boundaries between each other, walked a day in each other’s shoes, and ultimately, learned to appreciate each other for who they are, rather than judging them by their stories. Holly embraced this experience. She opened up about herself, talked about the challenges in her life, and even stood and sung in front of 80 of her peers and 20 adults. The teachers who attended said that particular moment was emotional and powerful and that the entire Challenge Day experience had a significant impact on everyone who attended. This learning opportunity would not have been possible if it were not for Coolidge counselor, Marlene Lifshin, who wrote a Reading Education Foundation grant to bring Challenge Day to Coolidge Middle School. Ms. Lifshin also co-teaches a Project Adventure class, which encourages students to step out of their comfort zones, and embrace their uniqueness. Recently, Marlene challenged her class to remember the message of Challenge Day and to come up with their own message on empathy, which was one of the key themes of that Day. Holly embraced the challenge and wrote her own song, performed it, further celebrating her comfort with who she is, her strength, and her growth. Her song, called Empathy, is on You Tube (see below) and is beautifully written and sung.
Ottavio, Huixin, Holly, Brendon and Kaitlin all have something in common. They have caring adults in the Reading Public Schools in their lives who believe in them, coach them through challenges and struggles, and allow them to blossom. More so, these adults do these types of things because they know and believe it is the right thing to do for their students. It is in their DNA as an educator. These students remind us that, we, regardless of our role, make a difference in the lives of our students each and every day just by being here, saying hi, smiling, and being supportive. Sometimes having a safe place to go and getting a little inspiration is all a young person needs.
We have over 4400 students in the Reading Public Schools and each of them have their own unique story to tell. All of them have had someone in their lives who have made a difference. Our teacher’s role is to unlock the potential in our students, connect with them, support them through challenging times and help each of them reach their potential.
Why do teachers do what they do?
They are here because of the impact that they can have on their students’ lives. At times, the work is challenging, but they persevere, because they know the outcomes are priceless. Our teachers have entered education and have been called to this profession because of the Ottavio’s, Huixin’s, Holly’s, Brendon’s and Kaitlin’s of this world and the inspiration that they provide to us as educators each and every day.
I want to conclude this post with an excerpt from a poem from educator Ivan Welton Fitzwater called, “Only a Teacher?”
“I am a teacher! What I do and say are being absorbed
by young minds who will echo these images across the ages.
My lessons will be immortal, affecting people yet unborn,
people I will never see or know.
The future of the world is in my classroom today, a
future with the potential for good or bad. The pliable minds
of tomorrow’s leaders will be molded either artistically
or grotesquely by what I do. Several future presidents are
learning from me today; so are the great writers of the next
decades; and so are all the so-called ordinary people who
will make the decisions in a democracy…
Only a teacher? Thank
Goodness I have a calling to the greatest profession of all! I must
be vigilant every day lest I lose one fragile opportunity to
As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, please take a moment and thank a teacher for the work that they do each and every day with our students. On behalf of the Reading Public Schools, thank you to our teachers for being part of our school district, thank you for what they do each every day for children and thank you for the impact that they have on those students who come to school because of that one adult who they have connected with in our schools.
About the Author:John Doherty is the Superintendent of Schools for the Reading Public Schools in Reading, Massachusetts, a Pre-K-12 school district of approximately 4500 students North of Boston. John received both his B.S. in Biological Sciences and his MEd. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and he received his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Seton Hall University. He has been an educator for 32 years and currently teaches a graduate level course to Reading teachers called Expanding the Boundaries of Teaching and Learning, which supports teachers in making the transformational shift in the classroom where students have more ownership for their learning. Dr. Doherty has presented and has been a panel member at several local, state, and national conferences on a variety of topics including educator evaluation, school culture, increasing district capacity, and technology integration.
This article was originally posted on the author's blog Pathways.
You can find Dr. Doherty on Twitter @jdoherty