UNION COUNTY — They have helped shape the lives of absolutely everyone, and this week — May 6 through May 10 — has been designated 2013 National Teacher Appreciation Week — a time for us to thank them for their dedication to education.
“So many of America’s teachers are amazing. Each day, they take on the extraordinary responsibility and highly complex work of moving all students forward,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a blog on the U.S. Department of Education Website.
The blog also encourages the recognition of teachers.
“During Teacher Appreciation Week, the people who value teachers often take time to send them a note of thanks or a token of appreciation. This is appropriate. The least we can do once a year is to push ‘pause’ on our lives and thank them in the short term. However, what our teachers really need — and deserve — is our ongoing commitment to work with them to transform America’s schools. They need us to acknowledge them as professionals who are doing our nation’s most important work. We can begin this work by making it a priority to listen to and to celebrate teachers.”
Teachers within the Union County School District feel what they do each day is their calling, and they take pride in molding and shaping the minds of the future.
Lockhart School first grade teacher Shelley Vaughan described what she called one of the most rewarding moments in teaching.
“When one of my students is struggling with reading and they reach the point where it starts to click with them — to see the look on their little faces when they are successful with reading a book on their own, without any assistance.”
Jen Roberts — first grade teacher at Jonesville Elementary/Middle School — agreed, saying she looks forward to the “light bulb moments” in the classroom.
“As a teacher, the most rewarding accomplishment is to see the excitement on a child’s face when they grasp a new concept,” she said.
Many teachers say those kinds of instances — when academic growth in students is apparent — serve as a reward to the teacher as much as the students. Monarch Elementary School Literacy Specialist and Curriculum Coach Dena Addis described her philosophy of education.
“I believe there are three important attributes that successful educators must encompass: enthusiasm, passion and courage,” Addis said. “More importantly, I believe in children. Every child has the power to become whatever he dreams of becoming.”
Buffalo Elementary School second grade teacher Heather Barnado said teachers become involved in their students lives, which is not always easy.
“It will pull at your heartstrings sometimes,” she said. “You’re dealing with children and their emotions, and you never know what they will feel like that day. It’s hard to detach yourself sometimes.”
Barnado added that there have been circumstances in which she stopped lessons to go outside the classroom with students for counseling.
“It’s trying to push them forward so they can feel loved and successful,” she said.
The impact teachers have on their students last a lifetime, and teachers often point out that there were special teachers in their own lives who inspired them to become educators.
Union County School District Teacher of the Year — Union County High School English teacher Matthew Carroll — said in his case, the catalyst was his mother — Betty Ann Carroll — who currently teaches at Buffalo Elementary.
“I saw the fulfillment she received from helping students, the reward she received from helping them better themselves,” he said.
Carroll said he never knew what subject he wanted to teach, however, until he became a student of longtime UCHS English teacher Jack Kelly.
“He got me into literature,” Carroll said, adding that he fondly remembers writing a research paper about Ernest Hemingway for Kelly’s class. “That’s when I started picking apart literature — not just reading, but looking for different nuances each writer might have.”
Foster Park Elementary art teacher Amy Truitt said her all-time favorite teacher was Pat McAbee.
“She was the sweetest lady I had ever met, had the most beautiful cursive handwriting I had ever seen, and was a fantastic teacher,” Truitt said. “She loved learning, loved language and genuinely loved me! I can still knock on her door today and she is still the same person she always was. I strive to be the kind of teacher she was for me and the kind of lady she still is today.”
Sims Middle School teacher Kathryn Sommer-Gough also credited one special teacher as a true inspiration.
“I had always struggled with math; it was never my favorite subject — until the eighth grade,” Sommer-Gough said, explaining that her teacher — Dale Goff — made eighth grade math enjoyable because she related to students, making them feel loved and able.
“Mrs. Goff made it so interesting, and even fun!” Summer-Gough said. “She was able to explain math in a way that was so clear to me. I had never done so well in the subject.”
Summer-Gough also said aside from being a wonderful teacher, she also thought of Goff as a second mother and a friend.
“I knew I could go to her with school problems or anything else, and she would be there for me and would be trustworthy,” Summer-Gough said. “That meant a lot to me. That’s why I wanted to be like her. She was there for me during a difficult ‘growing pains’ year. I wanted to pay that forward. I always wanted to be that person in a child’s life.”
Everyone is encouraged to thank teachers who influenced them year-round, and especially during this week. Duncan concluded on the U.S. Department of Education website:
“Teacher Appreciation Week is a moment to say thank you to teachers for everything that they give in the name of helping students achieve. Teaching is an art, a science, and a public service, and I thank all teachers for their relentless efforts.”
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.