There are always a lot of celebrations in May – the Kentucky Derby, graduations, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. Even with all those reasons to recognize the loved ones in our lives – and our love of Kentucky as far as the Derby is concerned – there’s one week that really stands out in my mind – Teacher Appreciation Week.
This year, Teacher Appreciation Week will be May 3-7. This year’s theme is #ThankATeacher. I am thankful every day for the teachers who have helped and inspired me along the way – from my grandmother and my parents, who all were teachers – to my sister (who currently is a teacher in Metcalfe County) and my wife Sarah (who taught for 17 years). I also work with a tremendous group of educators as commissioner, both through our staff at KDE and the teachers across the Commonwealth that we have contact with every day.
While I hope I have expressed my gratitude for those who have helped me in the past and continue to help me every day, I feel that this year we especially need to thank our teachers. This past year has not been easy on any of us, not on our students, parents, administrators, staff or teachers.
As I’ve seen the COVID pandemic progress, first as a superintendent in Colorado and then as Kentucky’s commissioner of education, I’ve seen the toll it’s taken on our teachers. They had to quickly adapt to teaching their students online, in hybrid environments or working through COVID mitigation efforts for in-person instruction. Throughout all of these disruptions, our Kentucky teachers kept adapting to meet the needs of their students and families.
While heroic, I know our teachers also faced real challenges with trying to provide the kind of support our students have needed over the past year. They have helped students with technology, everything from making sure all their students have computers and internet access to helping with passwords and managing online testing. Teachers also have addressed the increased social and emotional needs of our students, who were dealing with the trauma and stress of the upending of their normal routines at school and at home.
Through it all, we have seen Kentucky’s teachers do some wonderful things. We’ve seen teachers at the Kentucky School for the Blind and the Kentucky School for the Deaf personally deliver resources to their students. We’ve seen teachers create inventive spaces for students to do their classwork at home. And we’ve also seen teachers continuing work on their National Board certification during a pandemic.
Throughout it all, the question I’ve heard most from teachers is, “How do we help our students?” Their work has been, and continues to be, driven by that one question. That is the hallmark of the professionalism I’ve seen in the Commonwealth’s public school teachers and their desire to help their students succeed regardless of any challenges they or their students may face.
So for this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to personally thank all of our public school teachers. It is an honor to work with and for you to help all of Kentucky’s students forge their path to a successful future.