The Blog

On This Day of the Teacher, Thank a California Educator

Ask any man, woman or child in California about their favorite teacher, and you are bound to get a variety of animated responses. In fact, chances are that if you ask people about who had the greatest influence on them, many will name a teacher.

Today, May 9, is the 30th annual California Day of the Teacher. It’s a perfect time to send a note or e-mail of thanks to your child’s classroom teacher, or perhaps even to one of your own teachers. You can probably find a few on Facebook. So many teachers make a lasting difference in so many lives.

For me, it was Mr. Chavez, my fourth-grade teacher at El Rancho Elementary School in Chino. He was one of those teachers who could nourish the gift that every child had, and I remember that he was very open to everybody, not just the kids who were the best behaved or the kids who seemed to be the smartest or got their work done on time. And I was a kid who needed that kind of connection. I needed to know there was an adult in the world who believed in me, and he was that guy. I didn’t know it then, but I suppose the memory of Mr. Chavez influenced my decision to become a teacher.

This past year, as part of the “Thank You, Teacher!” project, the California Teachers Association (CTA) has asked our members to share thank you notes from their students. We have been running many of them in our California Educator magazine and on our website. The letters are from grateful students who never expected to go to college, from parents who never thought their child would thrive in school, and yes, from students who never thought they would themselves become teachers. And all because of a teacher who inspired, who cared, who encouraged them.

I challenge anyone who has been a determined critic of classroom teachers to read these letters and not be moved by them.

The CTA theme of this year’s Day of the Teacher is “California Teachers: Building a better state for public education.” We know that California’s future success depends on the students we serve, and that’s why this year’s theme is so aptly chosen. We are building a better state for public education, and we are working in public education to build a better California.

The theme is also appropriate because this year is an election year that offers Californians the opportunity to re-commit themselves to the well-being of our state by supporting the Schools and Local Public Safety Act of 2012 funding initiative that is headed for the November ballot. The initiative is sponsored by Governor Jerry Brown and the Restoring California Coalition, and is designed to put California, our cities, and public schools on the road to recovery.

No one knows better than teachers about the impact on our students of the more than $20 billion in cuts to public schools over the past few years. And nobody knows better than teachers about the impact of 40,000 teacher and education support professional layoffs in the past four years. It has been devastating to watch. Yet, in spite of all this, California’s educators are working hard every day to prepare our students for success in the future. We are working to build a better state, and that’s a lesson plan all of us can learn from.

This op-ed appeared in the Long Beach Press Telegram, Torrence Daily Breeze and the Los Angeles Daily News.

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