Why We Will Always Need our Teachers and our Mothers

The department works to honor Tennessee teachers every day, but we are especially excited to celebrate educators during National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 5-9.

Sarah Shepson is the chief of staff for the division of curriculum and instruction, but she is also a former educator. Here Sarah talks about former and current teachers that inspire her, and as Mother’s Day approaches, Sarah recognizes one of the most important teachers of all.

By Sarah Shepson

In thinking about how best to thank our teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week, and with Mother’s Day just around the corner, I realized I can trace everything I know how to do in life back to a teacher, my mom, and many other moms.

I became an educator because of my AP English teacher, Mrs. Helton. I have never met anyone who is as passionate about literature and writing as she is. We read and enjoyed reading weighty books like Moby Dick, and she pushed us to refine our thoughts in discussion and in writing. She made sure me and my classmates were ready for college and our careers. I became a high school English teacher myself, because I wanted my students to have the opportunity to love reading and expressing their ideas as much as I did in Mrs. Helton’s class. I can’t say I did as well as Mrs. Helton did, but it certainly made me appreciate how a great teacher makes the hard work of teaching look easy.

Sarah and Tessa before a race

Another educator I admire is a teacher I know as a dear friend, Tessa Silvestri-Higgins. She teaches the newspaper elective at Grizzlies Prep, an all boys’ middle school in Memphis, and she has continued to teach while raising two small children and also expecting her third child in June. Tessa has taught me patience, grace and the power of discipline (she helped me shave 11 minutes off of my half marathon time!). Though most importantly, she has taught me that we can all be fulfilled by giving of our time to others. While teaching is a profession, to me it is also a gift, of time, effort, support, and mentorship of others. Tessa is a mentor and teacher not only to her students, but to her family, friends and community, and for that I am very thankful to her.

My own mom went back into the classroom this year, also as a high school English teacher, and I admire her excitement to teach a new grade level and new subject area. She’s shown me that in life, no matter what age, we can all continue to learn new skills, make life changes, and bring out the best in others.

Sarah and her mom

I could write a much longer blog thanking my mom for all that she has done for me and my brother and sister, but to keep it brief, I will simply say thank you. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Teaching and parenting have a domino effect in the lives of others. Our foundation as individuals comes from our family and our educational experiences. It has always been ironic to me that the role of a teacher or a mother is to make children independent, for students to learn new skills, so that they might no longer need their teachers or mothers – we learn to read, write, research, problem-solve so that we can self-sufficient learners. But as my mom and many other teachers know well, we never stop learning, or growing, or needing our mothers and teachers. Even though we may not be within the four walls of our classroom or the home we grew up in, we will always have the lessons our teachers and mothers taught us, so that we can pay it forward when it’s our turn. Thank you, for all that you’ve done for us.