By Candice McQueen, Tennessee Commissioner of Education
This year in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we are highlighting teachers’ stories of how they came to teach. As the stories rolled in over the past several weeks, we heard from teachers who knew from an early age that they wanted to spend their careers in education, and we heard from others who began their work in another profession and decided later to move into a classroom. No matter the path, the theme is the same: For people who could have chosen to do anything, they chose to teach.
You can see that same theme in my teaching story. I grew up knowing that I wanted to teach because of the experiences I had as a child. My mother was both a teacher and a school leader, and watching her work and seeing the impact she had on those around her made a big impression on me. I, too, wanted to help others become their best selves the way that she did. I also saw teachers work with my brother, who has special needs, and I was inspired by their belief that all students can learn and grow. Teachers valued and honored his unique gifts and needs while continuing to push him to new expectations – ones he met primarily because of their beliefs and persistence. I probably could have done a lot of things with my life, but because of the influence of incredible educators all around me, I chose to teach.
Like you, I knew that my time and my talents were best spent equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in school, work, and life. We chose to teach because we believe in the potential of every student. Because of you, each of our classrooms in Tennessee is a place where students can grow into the problem solvers and critical thinkers we need for the future.
I know that teaching is far from easy. Nothing worth doing ever is. I also know that there is no more important profession than education. Teachers touch lives in a way that no one else can. Our future is sitting in our classrooms, and our teachers are shaping it one student at a time – this week and every week. Ask anyone about their favorite teacher, and no matter their age, their face immediately lights up as they launch into a story that inevitably leaves you smiling, too. Only teachers hold that uniquely powerful influence.
For you, who could have done anything, I am so grateful that you chose to teach. Our classrooms, communities, state, and nation are better because you did. Thank you for choosing to spend your life enriching those around you.