When talk turns to improving schools, there’s usually a lot of discussion about programs and instructional methods – what works and what doesn’t, what research demonstrates is effective and what isn’t.
Such things are important, but they also tend to come and go, changing with the prevailing currents or with who’s in charge.
Tupelo Public Schools Superintendent Randy Shaver frequently points out that all the good work done in developing new initiatives to improve instruction is really secondary to what matters most to student success: Good teachers. Without them, learning simply won’t happen to the degree that it should.
The community honored 10 teachers and three assistant teachers Friday when CREATE Foundation’s Teachers of Distinction awards were presented at a joint meeting of the Tupelo Kiwanis and Rotary clubs.
Also in attendance and sharing in the recognition were another 44 teachers and five assistants who had been nominated by students, administrators, parents or interested citizens. An outside panel of educators selected the winners.
It was a day to reflect not only on the value of teachers and the contributions they make, but on the importance of community support and recognition as well.
Tupelo has never lacked for support of its public schools and appreciation for its teachers, but a community must continually and intentionally make that appreciation known. Providing an annual moment in the spotlight – as well as a cash award of $1,000 per teacher and $500 per assistant – is a tangible means of expressing that support while honoring excellence in the profession.
Tupelo’s schools are in a time of transition in leadership and teaching methods – the infusion of technology with the laptop initiative being the most visible example – and expectations are high in the community for a turnaround on test scores and accountability ranking. Such times can be stressful and unsettling for teachers – even those who willingly embrace change – and that makes support, recognition and appreciation all the more important.
In every school district, the results for students will be no better than the quality of classroom instruction and, of course, even that can’t always compensate for factors beyond the teacher’s or school’s control. But the best teachers put everything they have into ensuring that all their students learn, and at the end of the day that is all that can be expected.
If any community wants excellent schools, it needs to nurture and value excellent teachers. They are the one essential ingredient for getting schools where every community wants them to be.
NEMS Daily Journal