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Teachers are Important

Gainesville Sun
May, 1998


Schools have become an easy target to blame for society's ills. Some people call every problem an educational failure: welfare, family problems, drug use and crime. Every election year generates suggestions from candidates trying to set themselves apart as having new ideas to strengthen our education system. We have tinkered with everything from class schedules and the number of children in each class to the shape and configuration of school facilities.

The focus on the negative sometimes diverts attention from the positive things happening in our schools. We believe the most positive is the work of teachers.

Compared with many professionals, teachers are underpaid and overworked. Successful business managers know 12 subordinates is about the most one can handle for maximum quality and productivity. Teachers routinely handle 24 to 30 students. In middle and high schools, teachers are responsible for 150 or more students each day.

Few teachers enter the profession expecting to earn a great deal of money, as the pay does not reflect their skills. They teach for the love of children and to contribute to the well-being of all of us. Teachers accept their jobs as a mission and a calling, not just a job.

Teachers are doing an outstanding job. Many of Alachua County's teachers cared enough to continue their education, and about 70% of hold masters or doctorate degrees.

Claudia Siders spent hours above and beyond her teaching duties establishing the Gator Invitational Sports Abilities Games in 1984, and in every year since. This is a state-wide sanctioned meet, and a training ground for national and international events.

Teachers perform daily miracles in their classrooms, which Americans take for granted. Movies are made about special teachers that bring impossible projects to inner city slums, and we read about creative music teachers working with the deaf.

We have local heroes as well. Dr. Darla Boyd and Cathy Costello, two principals, had a vision. Poor children who move frequently are at risk academically. Each move brings a new school, new teachers, expectations, and disruptions. The Anchor center is now home to more than 80 students, no matter where they live or how often their family moves. Kay Green and the others that work there are more than just teachers to these children.

We expect great feats from teachers every day. They can never yell at our child, have a bad day or make a mistake in judgment. In a single day, teachers perform duties as nurses, mental health therapists, parents, and law enforcement officers.

While researching this article, one administrator pointed out that teachers also have to deal with parents. (He may have been talking about the author!) We know from experience we are not an easy lot to work with. Teachers are often caught between differing parental expectations. We aplaud teachers for their diplomacy and tact. Without it, they would not survive our impossible demands.

We are among the best educated citizens in the world. For that, we have our teachers to thank. In our quest to improve our country's educational system, we must remember our teachers and let them know how much we value their contributions. We must look for ways to support them.

May 11 through 15 is Florida PTA Teacher Appreciation Week, a week to focus attention on the teachers whose love and care has always been there for our children. It is a week to recognize teachers for the significant role they play in our lives and in the well-being of our nation and our future. So few of us do it during the rest of the year, it is an important week to take time to say thanks to the teachers of our community.

{Janice Yrasquin is President of Buchholz PTA, and Alachua County PTA. Tom Barnes and Alison Law are active in PTA and children's issues.}