Teacher Appreciation Week inspires NC mom to say “thank you”

We just finished Teacher Appreciation Week, an annual opportunity to lift up and celebrate the remarkable role teachers and educators play in our children’s lives. But quite honestly, in our house, every day is educator appreciation day.

Since the day my children, now ages 15 & 10, entered preschool, educators have been valuable allies in making sure they learn and thrive academically and personally. They’ve instilled in them a love of learning that fuels their curiosity. They’ve helped them acquire not just the basics of reading and math but also the skills they’ll need to navigate a complex world.

Over the past year, my appreciation for the role of educators has only grown. Educators were on the front lines in the early days of the pandemic, ensuring children had access to healthy meals when schools were closed and delivering instructional materials and computers to help them continue their learning. For students who remained or returned to school, educators were instrumental in creating safe and healthy classrooms, whether it was ensuring adequate social distancing and ventilation or administering new cleaning protocols. They were a stable, nurturing presence amid unforeseen disruption that upended the routines children depend on.

I have listened to GoogleMeets, where my high schooler’s teacher helped the class process worries about the pandemic and gave them advice on dealing with the uncertainty of the moment. I will never forget hearing my youngest belly laugh as his teacher ate chocolate-covered worms to celebrate the class meeting their collective math proficiency goal. Teachers provided a much-needed sense of normalcy in a world where little else felt normal.

I’m not alone in my gratitude for public schools and public school educators. A recent poll showed that North Carolinians overwhelmingly support public education–and they believe wholeheartedly in public school educators. A whopping 67 percent of people have a positive view of public school educators!

The poll also highlighted the fact that increasingly, people believe we’re placing our children’s futures at risk by chronically underfunding our schools. This belief runs across partisan lines, with North Carolinians stating emphatically that they want better funding for students and public schools. In fact, 69 percent – including 62 percent of Republicans – voiced strong support for investing additional resources in our public schools.  

When it comes to our students’ future, educators have never been more critical. It’s not an understatement to say that North Carolina’s future leaders are sitting in a North Carolina classroom today. The work our educators do every day shapes a brighter future for all of us.

Being a parent is holding your breath as you try to figure out how you will nurture a child into adulthood when you feel as though you’re still figuring it out for yourself. Parenting is watching in awe of your child as they take their first steps and say first words. It

is the joy of watching them make a new friend or navigate a new milestone. As time goes on, we understand that nurturing our children and their dreams is not a journey we ever really undertake alone. It also means acknowledging that the relationships my children have with educators – the teachers, librarians, food service workers, bus drivers, school nurses, counselors, custodians, and other professionals who interact with them daily – are some of the most meaningful and influential in their lives. They aren’t bystanders in my children’s lives. They’re active role models and participants vital to helping them realize their full potential.

Just as educators partner with parents to nurture and shape our children’s future, parents can partner with educators to make sure our public schools offer the kind of education we all believe every child deserves. By making our voices heard – in conversations with our neighbors, with policymakers in Raleigh, and local officials in our communities — parents can demand that every student has access to resources that will deliver up-to-date books and technology, a curriculum that fights racism, safe and healthy learning environments, and most importantly, a great teacher in every classroom.

The best way for us as parents to demonstrate our appreciation for educators is to stand with them in building the kind of public schools that will genuinely help our students achieve their dreams.

Bekah Brown is the mother of 9th and 4th grade students enrolled in Wake Co. Public Schools.

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