Teacher Appreciation Week May End, but My Gratitude Is Endless

Young teacher with long hair tied back smiles at students while sitting with them. Thank you, Miss Ketchum!

Yes, I wrote Miss Ketchum, not Ms., because she was my teacher before the days of “Ms.”—a woman then was either Miss or Mrs. I think she was a Miss, but married or not, I loved her. She taught first and second grade, and I got to study with her two years straight; I would have stayed with her forever if I could. Miss Ketchum was beautiful, at least to me, because she treated me with loving kindness always. I was her pet.

Miss Ketchum taught us to read, to raise our hands if we wanted to be called on, to count and do simple arithmetic. We drew pictures, practiced our handwriting, acted out stories, and played circle games on the playground on nice days and in the lunch room when it was raining. There was no school gym. Maybe what had once been the gym was turned into the lunch room because the school was over-enrolled and crowded. I didn’t care. This was public education—a gem, if underfunded. Public education serves our nation and needs to be defended.

Neither Miss Ketchum nor any of the other teachers at P.S. 81 “taught for the test”; they taught for the love of learning. Students are in school to study many things—science, literature, arithmetic, art, and physical education. Also penmanship. And how to respect and get along with others. In my view, schools that feature open discussions, explorations, and the time and place to run around like kids provide better educations. Kids learn better when they can move, when their minds and emotions are engaged. Rote learning has some value, but its overemphasis quashes intelligence. Tests are a learning and diagnostic tool but not the purpose of the school system.

Miss Ketchum paid attention to me and never made fun of me or anyone else. We were all treated with respect. She taught from her heart, taught me to love school. It was my refuge from a less-than-happy home, and I know plenty of other kids before and after me felt the same. I still love school. I even married a teacher. Sometimes I am a teacher myself. I found an emotional sanctuary in school. Others find a place to get a nutritious meal—sometimes the best, maybe only, meal of their day. All schoolchildren deserve a free and nutritious lunch program.

But let’s get real about elementary school. First-graders are a messy bunch. Teachers clean up a lot of stuff—snot and vomit and worse. Kids can be rude and unruly. Teachers clean that up, too, and teach kids manners and interpersonal skills.

Often, our schools are under-supplied. Many teachers go shopping and buy supplies for their classes out of their own pockets, which are not exactly stuffed to begin with.

Teachers have to be counselors, psychologists, coaches, and maintain discipline while teaching kids who may or may not want to learn. Teachers should inspire, and the best ones do.

Dealing with a group of kids, maybe 30 or so, for 6 hours or longer is a hard job. But it’s not over when the bell rings. Just as students have homework to do, so do teachers. They correct papers, write lesson plans, and think about and study ways to be better teachers. I don’t think we give them enough credit for that.

I sometimes hear folks complain that teachers are lazy, have cushy schedules, and have the summer off. Anyone who thinks teachers have it easy should try it. Teachers have to be counselors, psychologists, coaches, and maintain discipline while teaching kids who may or may not want to learn. Teachers should inspire, and the best ones do.

In many countries teachers are held in the highest regard, but, sad to say, not so much in the United States. Maybe that’s because people don’t see teachers produce tangible products—teachers don’t make something that can be bought and sold. Or perhaps it’s because they aren’t involved in big money-making ventures like real estate or banking, for instance. Instead, they are merely responsible for taking care of our children and developing an educated, well-functioning society.

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” My world was changed by Miss Ketchum and the many teachers who came after her.

As Teacher Appreciation Week (May 8-12) comes to a close, I want to show my lifelong appreciation for all my teachers—beginning, of course, with the first.


Strauss, V. (2013, December 5.) Nelson Mandela on the power of education. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/12/05/nelson-mandelas-famous-quote-on-education/?utm_term=.b481c0acdd5a

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Apryl

    May 12th, 2017 at 12:34 PM

    Where would any of us be without the awesome teachers in our lives?? They are the most unappreciated and under paid for sure of any of our professions, and are constantly having to do things to prove to others their worth and possibilities. I for one am sick of hearing about how much doctors and lawyers get paid while we pay teachers next o nothing for the hard work that they do teaching and educating our children.
    How about giving a little more credit where credit is due and compensating them what they are actually worth?

  • Lynn

    May 12th, 2017 at 2:38 PM

    Right on, Apryl!
    Take care,

  • james R

    May 13th, 2017 at 8:45 AM

    I agree with the fact that teachers do a lot, but they do get the whole summer off to recharge those batteries so that has to count for something right?

  • Lynn

    May 13th, 2017 at 11:24 AM

    Summers off certainly count for R&R for those who can afford it. Many teachers teach summer school or work in summer camps or other jobs if they can’t.

  • Sybil

    May 15th, 2017 at 6:59 AM

    Whatever time off teachers get, they deserve! I for one wouldn’t want to have to do their jobs, and look, these are the people who are educating the generations of the future. Why we choose to make them at the low rung of the ladder is beyond what I can conceive. It isn’t right that they are putting so much work in and very rarely do they get the appreciation and recognition that is deserved.

  • patrick

    May 15th, 2017 at 11:23 AM

    I literally had teachers who were more important to me than my parents at times, so yeah, they made a huge positive impact on my life throughout all different stages.

  • Lynn

    May 15th, 2017 at 12:31 PM

    Well said Sybil, I’m with you.
    Take care,

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