Our View: Great educators continue to learn

/ 15 August 2012 / eunice

Rochester Post-Bulletin Editorial, August 15, 2012 – With the start of the school year less than three weeks away (less for students in some private schools), it’s a safe bet that plenty of parents are eager to see the calendar turn to September. Some kids might share that emotion, while others … well, they’re in full-blown panic, wondering where their summer has gone and how they can cram as much fun as possible into the next 20 days.

But for faculty and staff, summer is pretty much over. Walk into a public school building today and you’ll likely find a beehive of activity as teachers, custodians, administrators, technicians, media specialists and a host of other people prepare for “Meet the Teacher Day” and the first day of school.

And really, for many of these district employees, that supposed three-month “vacation” never really happened.

Case in point? Lee Thompson, an agriculture teacher at Goodhue High School, was just named as the Minnesota Outstanding Ag-Ed Teacher of the Year. He has 33 years of experience in the classroom, so it’s safe to say that not much surprises him these days. If he wanted to relax, to go on “autopilot” and teach the same material the same way he did last year, he could do so.

But he doesn’t do that. Instead of resting on his laurels, he spends his summers taking classes and making sure he’s up-to-date in his knowledge about how every-changing business of agriculture. That’s the only way he can continue to make a lasting impact on his students and their futures.

If we had the time and the space, we could probably tell hundreds of stories just like Thompson’s. Even for the most gifted teachers it’s a career that requires the constant re-invention of oneself, the updating of skills and knowledge. Being a teacher is difficult, but being a great teacher is all-consuming.

Still, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that it isn’t just teachers like Thompson who will affect kids for the next nine months. A student might interact with a dozen or more adults every school day, including bus drivers, janitors, volunteers, paraprofessionals, tutors, the school nurse, the police liaison officer or a guidance counselor. A friendly smile, a pat on the back, a few words of encouragement or just a listening ear can make all the difference in the world for a child who is lonely, scared or simply having a bad day. Many of those people are at work today, doing everything they can to help make students’ transition from summer to school as smooth as possible.

Seldom do they get the proverbial apple on the desk that they richly deserve amid the controlled chaos of the school year, so when you have a chance to say “Thank you,” we urge you to take full advantage of that opportunity.