Teachers deserve respect, appreciation for their compassion and hard work

By Tyra Clinkingbeard

I didn’t initially choose to become a teacher. My thought out of high school was a pre-med degree with the goal of thoracic surgery. I had grand dreams but small hands and still remember when a surgeon, who was a friend of the family, telling me “Tyra, your fingers are too short. You can’t operate on people.” He dashed my hopes right then and there. But if I wasn’t going to be able to be a surgeon, what would I do?

There are those who say, in a superior tone, “Those who can’t, teach.” I wish I knew who came up with that one. Probably someone who couldn’t make it through the college of education and was turned down to become a teacher. Professors in the colleges of education around the United States critique and evaluate their students constantly. They frequently have those “you need to think of another career” talks with students they don’t believe would make good teachers.

In my case, I volunteered in a school for special education students next to the high school I attended. This school was well known for its innovative teaching trends and its commitment to the idea that all students deserve a fine education. I found a home there and loved working with the kids. So I decided that doing something I loved was the answer to my career questions. I was lucky to have realized that teaching was something I was good at and loved doing early enough in my college life that I didn’t have to take too many extra classes when I changed majors.

Teaching has always been the noblest profession, for without teachers, doctors wouldn’t be doctors, lawyers wouldn’t be lawyers, newspaper editors wouldn’t be editors, Bill Gates wouldn’t be whatever he is nowadays and Oprah Winfrey, the great naysayer of public education because she listens to everything Bill Gates says, would definitely not be where she is today. I chose a career that I feel good about each day, one that should be respected. For I am a teacher.

National Teacher Appreciation Week just concluded, but I want to take the time to set the record straight and offer many long-overdue thank-yous to my fellow educators.

For the record, teachers spend more waking time with kids than most parents do, especially during the school year. So thank you to teachers who become the surrogate parent to so many.

Public school teachers take all children into their hearts and their classrooms. We do not turn children away like charter schools or private schools often do, especially those children whose test scores aren’t high enough because they have learning or behavioral needs. So thank you to teachers who open their arms to all and do their best job every day, teaching all children without prejudice.

To those teachers who use their own money to pay for clothes and shoes and lunches and fifth-grade trips to Camp Red Cloud because they see a child in need and want, a huge thank you for loving and caring for these children.

To coaches who give their time on and off the field for pennies an hour, thank you.

To choir, orchestra and band teachers who give up their lives, I thank you for the hours you put in outside the school day to nurture your students.

And to the tech-ed, consumer, family and ag teachers, thank you for working with students who will not go to college and letting them know that you believe in them and support them with the classes that will prepare them for a vocational career. Those careers are just as important as the ones requiring a college degree.

Finally, to all teachers in District 51, who agreed to help the district with its budget crisis by taking a temporary salary freeze that has now impacted you for three years, thank you for stepping up to the plate for so long and doing without. Between salary freezes and furlough days, you have lost nearly 10 percent of your expected salary for far too long.

I know many local teachers are giving serious consideration to leaving our district and going somewhere else to teach, because they can make more money on the Front Range or in Wyoming. Some teachers here qualify for welfare and subsidized housing. I understand teachers’ need to take care of their families. I just worry we won’t find enough high-quality teachers to take their places. 

Readers who take the time to do even a small amount of research on present public education will see that teachers have raised the bar for learning and academic expectations in their classrooms and it has paid off. I can show them study after study that says the education that our children receive today in public schools far outshines that of the education in public schools 50 years ago.

Take time to thank a teacher. Instead of listening to so many in our community who have never stepped foot into a public school classroom since their high school graduation, yet feel they have the right to bash all public school teachers for the work we do 181 days a year, visit a local school. Meet with the teachers and see the magic that is being created every day. Sit and listen and be amazed. We will welcome you and invite you to be part of our classroom. We will show you the reality of what we do, day in and day out.

Tyra Clinkingbeard is a math teacher at Fruita Monument High School and a veteran teacher of 31 years. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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