Picture of Mandy Perez.

Mandy Perez, 2023 Kentucky Teacher of the Year

Every time you log into social media, turn on the TV, or speak to anyone who works in education, the harsh realities that are crippling educators are evident. Problems ranging from concerning legislation, challenging student behaviors, overwhelming work demands, toxic cultures, poor leadership, safety concerns, lack of support – the list goes on and on. These factors are contributing to many leaving the profession, and rightfully so, in many cases. Yet, I choose to stay.

Let me start off by saying that I can personally relate to being affected by challenges within the school. A true need for change led to a transfer to my new home at Crittenden County Middle School. I believe that my experience in the elementary school helped me to become a better middle school teacher. You can take the teacher out of the elementary school, but you can never take the elementary school out of the teacher. I am currently living my best teaching life and thriving in my career. It is the best feeling in the world.

With that said, for anyone considering leaving the profession, I would like to encourage you to please search first for a new school to call home that will welcome you with open arms and hearts before your final exit from the profession. I promise you that these places exist. There are leaders who uplift everyone around them, show empathy, and empower their staff to achieve goals because they create a culture of respect and trust among their colleagues. These people will become your family and will want to help you succeed.

It is a beautiful thing when you find yourself in a setting where everyone is flourishing and genuinely happy. You will start to notice an uplifting change in yourself. This change will help reignite your passion and that is priceless. Trust me, I’m speaking from personal experience.

If you are a teacher, you understand that teaching is more than just a job, it is a calling that one is born to fulfill. If you know in your heart that you belong in the classroom, just like I know that is where I belong, I ask that you please reconsider leaving and join me in choosing to stay, too.

A wise gentleman recently said to me that every single person has at least one teacher that made a difference for them in their educational journey. He then posed the question, “Doesn’t every child deserve that same opportunity?” This question lingers in the back of my mind daily and it serves as a reminder for me to take on the role to uplift this profession and focus on all the good because, yes, every child is worthy of having the same experience.

Teaching is the most noble profession in the world. To have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students is one of life’s greatest blessings as a teacher. However, you must be a teacher to truly understand and appreciate the rewards a career in this profession brings. It may be that graduation announcement you receive from the child you had in elementary school, or that Facebook notification that you’re the best teacher they ever had years after they’ve graduated from school that stop you in your tracks and make you smile and think to yourself, yes, it’s all been worth it after all.

We are life-changers. The impact and legacy we leave is unlike any other profession. It is honorable. Don’t allow yourself to fall victim to the negativity and scrutiny that education and teachers are currently under. Seek out an online community that is supportive. Follow teachers that share your same interests.

In my weakest moment, when I was ready to throw it all away, it was Principal El, a Twitter principal that I follow that took time out of his day to connect with me. He encouraged me, motivated me, and inspired me to choose to stay. Someone who I had never met, but who shared the same passion and vision with me, believed in me. One person made all the difference in the world for me by offering me continuous support.

It is crucial that we support each other right now. Find your teaching tribe. I’m currently searching for those educators who are still passionate about teaching and are choosing to stay.

I chose to become a teacher because I wanted to make a difference. I still want to be the person who creates positive changes in the lives of the students who come in my class. I yearn to see the sparkle and magic of the “aha” moments when I help a student achieve a learning breakthrough. I’ve never given up on a student and I have no intention of doing so.

I believe that teaching is, and always will be, one of the best jobs in the world. I choose to stay, and I hope that you will choose to stay, too.