As I have interacted with teachers across my district, the state, and the country this past year, I have been struck by the number of dedicated, talented teachers who are exerting tremendous effort to educate our children. These talented educators recognize the significance of their job and truly give maximum effort in their daily preparations. Clearly, teaching does not garner the respect from the general public that it should, but if more positive stories about teachers truly changing lives were in the spotlight perhaps the perception of our profession would be transformed.
As educators, we are also responsible for the public view of teachers. Too often, we are hypercritical of each other. We spend too much time focusing on who has the “toughest job” in education:
- Is it “easier” or “harder” to educate gifted children or struggling learners?
- Who is responsible if high school students cannot read?
- Is it more difficult to teach in rural areas or urban areas?
- Is it more challenging if parents are hyper-involved or absent?
- Which content area is the most difficult one to teach?
When we get involved in conversations regarding the difficulty or ease of our particular situation, we lose sight of what is really important. Regardless of the individual circumstances of the classroom environment, funding, parental involvement or other factors, in the end the goal is to increase learning for ALL students — a truly daunting task regardless of situation. If we agree that it is essential for all students to learn, then we all have a very tough and valuable job. It makes no sense to cast stones at each other. Imagine if, instead of tearing each other down, we learned from and supported each other in the different roles that we play? What a difference that would make in the educational lives of our students!
This year has caused me to reflect and grow more than any other time in my career. Last year I naively thought things were over when the ceremony recognizing the Ashland, Inc. Teacher Achievement Award winners and Teachers of the Year concluded. Little did I know that was just the beginning and that a title would bring so many opportunities, but also many responsibilities. Representing so many educators across the state has altered my perspective. I have a new appreciation for the diverse school, classroom, and home environments encountered by our teachers. I have definitely enjoyed my tenure as 2013 Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year. Am I the best? No. Am I dedicated to my students? Yes. Do I love my job? Yes. Do I have amazing days when it seems like I make a difference? Yes. Do I have days that make me question why I became a teacher? Yes. Regardless of the highs and lows, I am excited and privileged to come to school every day and try to create new opportunities for my students by fostering a supportive and inquisitive learning environment. I know so many of my teaching colleagues in and outside of Kentucky are doing the same, too. As I finish out my year as the Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year I call on all of you, regardless of our different teaching situations, to constantly grow and support each other in order to best educate ALL of our students.
Allison Hunt, an AP Human Geography teacher at Manual High School in Jefferson County, was selected as the 2013 Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year on Oct. 17, 2012. She and Heidi Givens, the Kentucky Elementary School Teacher of the Year, alternated monthly column-writing duties throughout their reigns. This is Allison’s final column.