Teachers do far more than 
 just classroom instruction

By Tyra Clinkingbeard

A little girl, six years old, quietly walks up to her teacher and hands her a note that says, “Can I come live with you? Crcle (sic) yes or no.”

A young soldier serving in Afghanistan sends an email to his math teacher that reads in part, “I never could have become the man I am today without your support ... I never could have learned math without you.”

Another young man maintains constant contact with his former high school baseball coach, a teacher, because, as he says, “When my parents’ divorce left me feeling abandoned and lost, you were the man who stepped in and showed me what being a man really was.”

After being kicked out of her house because she turned 18, a young woman has to walk more than two miles to school in sub-zero weather this past winter without a suitable coat. It happens just once though, because her teacher goes out that afternoon, buys her a winter coat and delivers it to her personally.

A teenage girl comes to her teacher in tears and says, “I was at a party last night and was raped. I don’t know what to do.”

The length of a teacher’s day is not dependent upon just the lessons we teach, but on the moments, too, that touch children’s lives as they learn to read, write and do math.

May 6-10 is National Teacher Appreciation Week. And if you ask most seniors graduating this year, they will tell you about a teacher who has made a difference in their lives.

While American teachers are consistently belittled for not adequately educating students, the reality is that we do far more for kids than teachers in most other countries do. We touch lives, not just test scores. We teach all students, not just selected students because they test well. Twelve- to 14-hour days spent grading, doing lesson plans and attending athletic events and plays because our students ask us to attend are quite common for teachers in School District 51.

Recently, a group of teachers gathered together on a Saturday at two different grocery stores in the valley to collect food for the Kids Aid backpack program because they know that when their students are hungry, they can’t learn. Their efforts netted nearly six pallets of food and close to $1,100 to donate to this magnificent program that helps our students, from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Weekly, Leslie Nichols, a teacher at Plateau Valley Elementary School, collects and distributes more than 1,500 bags of groceries a year to the families of her students because the children would go hungry without her. Her story, illustrated in the documentary, “A Place at the Table,” was shown at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

While Leslie would tell you she would prefer to never have to fulfill the need of feeding hungry children because hunger in children shouldn’t exist, she would never turn her back on any student, no matter why he or she is without food.

As I write this, I am sitting at a conference for educators, surrounded by more than 600 Colorado teachers. We are discussing ways to gain support for professional development so we can be trained to better help students who are being bullied, ways to help children in our schools who are mentally ill and need support that isn’t currently available for them and how to keep our children safe from those who target them with deadly violence.

How different the expectations are for teachers today. We are asked to do so much more than teach reading, writing, arithmetic and the multiple other subjects we are required to teach. And so many people just don’t realize what really happens day in and day out in the schools in our area.

Go to a school close to you and ask to sit in on a classroom so you can see firsthand what truly magnificent teachers we have in District 51 and the surrounding districts. Ask to see the curriculum map, common-core standards and grade-level expectations so you can see the very high quality education students in our county are getting from their very talented, deeply committed, highly qualified and caring teachers.

And then, when the class is over but before the next begins, go up to that teacher, shake his or her hand and say thank you, because that is the best appreciation you can ever give.

Tyra Clinkingbeard is a math teacher at Fruita Monument High School.


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