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Teachers Deserve Appreciation

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. It’s well deserved. Mississippi’s educators play a pivotal role in shaping our future every day in their classrooms and communities.

As the father of two young children at a Mississippi public school, I see that dedication first hand. My son’s teacher, Mrs. Taylor, and my daughter’s teacher, Mrs. Dell, go above and beyond, investing not only in academic success but in helping to nurture and guide students in their character and social development.

But being a teacher is tough. On a daily basis, Mississippi’s teachers deal with challenges that have nothing to do with math, science, or reading. They are part counselor, part disciplinary, and part record keeper. There are children from broken homes, children suffering from poverty, learning disabilities, and language barriers—all having to be navigated carefully.

In our cancel culture, there is also the constant concern of being labeled woke, or not woke enough, of lawsuits and of outrage. While parents have every right to be concerned about what is taught their children and families should have both a voice and options, it’s important that we realize that most Mississippi teachers aren’t all that different than the communities they call home. They attend church on Sundays and are at the ball fields on the weekend.

The overwhelming majority of teachers are not trying to indoctrinate our students with radical agendas. They’re trying to teach. We ask a lot of them, all while often limiting their ability to teach in heavily regulated and regimented environments, where the only thing that matters is a test score at the end of the year.

But our children are more than test scores and teachers are more than test proctors. No one knows their students better than the men and women who step into the class each day. We should trust them to do the job they were called to do. It’s why Empower started the “Let Me Teach” campaign to highlight the challenges in the profession and the exemplary people who are fighting through them to make a difference.

I was thinking this morning about two teachers that made a huge difference in my life, and my favorite teacher, who never taught me (at least not in the classroom). Mrs. Reynolds was my high school English teacher for two years. She instilled in her students the importance of thinking for themselves and digging deep into literature to better understand the world. Mr. Vice was my history teacher for two years. He made the past come to life with novel exercises, like writing and performing rap songs about the bubonic plague. Both fostered in me intellectual curiosity and the desire to become a lifelong learner.

My favorite teacher, though, is my sister, Carva. For the last twenty-five years, she has poured into countless students a boundless, inextinguishable passion, helping them overcome hurdles to reach their potential. She’s the Energizer Bunny of educators. She also taught me how to do division when I was five and still corrects my grammar on social media. So, there’s that.

Each of us have those stories and those teachers in our lives who made a difference. Empower got to show a little appreciation this week by bringing donuts and ‘thank you’ letters to local schools. My daughter showed her appreciation to Mrs. Dell in the letter above. I hope you’ll find some time to express gratitude, as well.

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