A message to the community from Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower …
Many years ago, rural families would thank their valued teachers with the crops from their farms.
After this tradition had passed, the apple, the prettiest of these crops, continued to be given for generations as a gift to favorite teachers.
In my day, it was coffee cups, and I was grateful to have received more than I needed -- because of the thoughtfulness. These days, it’s more likely to be a gift card … and maybe even one from the Apple technology company.
The intent remains true – to show appreciation for sharing the gift of knowledge and for sharing their hearts with their students.
Today, the first Tuesday of the first full week of May, is National Teacher Appreciation Day.
Across our community, students are celebrating teachers with cards, small gifts, flowers. Our teachers will enjoy buffet lunches, “room service” breakfasts and other treats thanks to the organization of our PTAs.
We have so much to thank our teachers for every day.
I am thankful for their role in ensuring our school district successfully earned renewal of our accreditation this spring and with our highest score ever. That renewal is a critically important achievement for our community, and one that we would never have earned without our teachers consistently demonstrating their excellence.
I am thankful for our teachers’ expert instruction that has led to the continued rise of our students’ academic performance, demonstrated by measures including our record high SAT and ACT scores. Our students are better prepared for college and career success than ever before thanks to our teachers.
I am thankful for the positive culture our teachers foster in their schools and our community. They do so much more than teach core subjects to our students. They show them career paths, encourage their artistic talent, coach them on the field, and offer club opportunities so students can lead and serve.
Our teachers appreciate every gift and thought, but my ask of you today is not for gifts. It’s for something more valuable and precious and deserved: trust and respect.
We have, over the past year, seen a terrible national trend of teachers being falsely accused of “indoctrinating” students, and much worse. Our teachers should not be casualties of a culture war to win TV ratings, social media “Likes” or elections. Shouting “but it’s the curriculum” is no different – curriculum is written by teachers, both those still in the classroom and those who have moved on to roles in district offices, and they do so with just as much care as when lessons are delivered.
What our teachers need, now more than perhaps ever in my lifetime, is trust and respect.
I respect our teachers deeply – I know how much they invest of themselves in others’ children. I trust our teachers to do what’s right. That’s not to say mistakes never happen – we employ humans – but teachers choose this career because they care. There are easier and more lucrative careers, but if you have a teacher heart, there’s nothing as fulfilling.
One of the books I’m currently reading is Stephen Covey’s “The Speed of Trust.” Trust, he explains, changes the stability, health and progress organizations can make when trusting relationships are in play. Our teachers need the trust of their students, colleagues, administrators, School Board, me and you in order to be as successful as possible.
The majority of you freely give trust and respect to our teachers every day without being asked, and I thank you. If you do not trust and respect our teachers, I hope this message will turn your heart. If you’re unhappy with a teacher, please talk to her or him. Build a positive relationship. The dividends are worth it.
I regularly meet with groups of our teachers. It’s humbling to be in their presence and hear how we can better support them. They have heard the negative messaging about teachers -- it discourages them and hurts their hearts, but they thankfully continue to serve our community.
Please join me in showing our teachers we not only appreciate them, but that we also trust them and respect them. There is no greater gift we can give.