A head-and-shoulders picture of Robin Kinney.

Interim Commissioner of Education Robin Fields Kinney

The first full week of May means Teacher Appreciation Week; a week dedicated to honoring our educators and the major role they play in the lives of our children. National Teacher Day on May 7 is an opportunity for us to lift teachers up and commend them for the hard work and sacrifices they make to ensure the next generation is well-educated.

In my role as commissioner, I rely on the expertise of a wide swath of educators at the Kentucky Department of Education. Many of them are guiding our discussions internally as we examine every facet of education and work toward improving outcomes for our students. Their insight and experience in the classroom are invaluable as we continue our United We Learn mission, which includes creating a more vibrant experience for every student and encouraging innovation in our schools.

One of the most exciting things I’ve gotten to do as interim commissioner of education has been speaking with educators who are out in our schools, doing the work of preparing the youngest members of their community for the future. The amazing thing about Kentucky is we have such a diverse range of perspectives and challenges based on geography, and hearing from teachers in each area paints a unique picture of what they need to succeed in the classroom.

Teacher appreciation means listening to their needs and doing what you can to help, regardless of what role in the community you may have. We’re responsible at the department for the entire Commonwealth, so getting the perspectives of everyone in our school districts, area technology centers and our state schools is vital.

On school visits the past several months, it has been a pleasure to visit a variety of classroom and talk to educators about their unique experiences. Whether it be a career and technical education teacher at the Kentucky School for the Blind, an agriculture teacher in Menifee County or an elementary school teacher in Bowling Green Independent, each perspective helps and gives us an insight on how we can truly appreciate the work they do.

While our work is statewide, many of these teachers are your neighbors. They share the same investment in the community and have the same goals, and this means the opportunities to show appreciation are valuable. Parents helping teachers with classroom resources or even just stories about the positive role educators have had in their lives mean the world to the educators in your community. It adds a personal touch on the role they have that can make a significant difference.

As we work on complex problems like the current teacher shortage many districts face, these shows of appreciation are vital. Burnout amongst teachers is a very real problem. While we work on resources for them at the statewide level to bolster recruitment and retention efforts – efforts that are also ongoing at the district level – reminding teachers how thankful we are for their work can make a difference, not just during the first week of May, but throughout the entire year.

As we progress toward the end of the year, I urge you to consider teachers that have had a positive impact in your life and let them know how much they meant to you. While the hard work continues to make sure they have all the resources they need in the classroom, personal stories about the impact they’ve had reinforce what being a teacher is all about.