TN Teacher of the Year: Why I‘m Thankful for Teachers

heart_loveThe department works to honor Tennessee teachers every day, but we are especially excited to celebrate educators during National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 4-8.

Karen Vogelsang is the 2014-15 Tennessee Teacher of the Year. She currently teaches fourth grade at Keystone Elementary in Shelby County. In this post, Karen shares why she is thankful for the nearly 70,000 Tennessee teachers across the state.

by Karen Vogelsang

Teaching – the one profession that makes all professions possible. Teaching is an incredible adventure, and I can assure you it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a demanding, but very rewarding career that takes you on all sorts of twists and turns. It’s like being on the best thrill ride ever. You never know from one day to the next what your day is going to be like, but for me that’s one of the many reasons that make it so special.

Karen works with a small group in her Memphis classroom.

Teacher Appreciation Week is held every year during the first week of May.  Students and parents across the country will celebrate teachers with handwritten notes and a myriad of gifts. Today, I want to share why I’m thankful for my fellow teachers.

Teachers work hard.

We’ve all heard the myth about all the time teachers get off during the school year: summer breaks, holidays, and leaving work at three!  I can assure you that’s not the case. Teachers enter the classroom in the morning and their lives outside of school are turned off. They have to be. They are interacting with students who enter the classroom with different levels of strengths and weaknesses. Teachers work hard to engage every learner with learning opportunities to meet their needs. To make that happen teachers spend countless hours planning instruction. In the summer, teachers are attending professional development to fill their teacher toolbox with new methods to positively impact instruction and learning.  Every day counts. Teachers work countless hours to help prepare our children for their future.

Teachers care.

Teachers love every student in their class, even the ones that test our patience. Caring is where it all begins. You know the saying from Theodore Roosevelt: “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” I see countless examples each and every day of how teachers at my school care about their students. Our special education teacher has driven to a child’s home to pick up parents to attend a meeting because they don’t have transportation. Last year one of our teacher assistants took a fifth-grade student shopping for a dress for graduation, and then took her to get her hair done. Our counselor has solicited local businesses for supplies and uniform clothing for our students. I could go on and on… I’m thankful for how teachers show they care and do whatever it takes to make sure their students know that.

Teachers empower their students.

The skills that teachers impart on their students include more than learning to read, solving math problems, and completing science experiments. All of us have a story about that special teacher that impacted our lives. Teachers empower their students with skills that can impact them for life. Skills such as time management, organization, cooperation, speaking and listening, are all skills needed to be successful regardless of the career path a student chooses. Henry Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell when his influence stops.”

Teachers stick together.

This is my number one reason why I’m so thankful for teachers. In my first year of teaching my unofficial mentor told me that we have to stick together. I have never forgotten her words. I love how teachers are there for one another. Whether they are struggling to find a way to reach that seemingly unreachable student, or trying to come up with another strategy to teach a skill that students just aren’t getting, teachers are partners.

During teacher appreciation week I hope you will reach out to that teacher that made a difference in your life or your child’s life, and tell him or her thank you!  I can tell you that all the gifts are great, but there is nothing like hearing those words from a former student or parent. To all the hardworking, caring teachers that empower life skills and a love of learning in their students, and are there for one another – THANK YOU!