All across America this week we are celebrating teachers. This is an opportunity for each and every one of us who have attended our schools to call out that teacher that made a difference in our lives.

Our personal inspirations

Mine is Miss Pieper, my high school English teacher. Through her example of high expectations paired with caring support, the desire to be a Teacher myself took root! And that’s what I have been doing since my first days as a second grade teacher.

For Gail, when she was a junior in high school, she volunteered at a summer camp for children with severe disabilities. Her art teacher came one day to work with the kids and he was genuinely surprised to see Gail there. He told her that he thought she would be hanging out at the pool all summer with her friends; he was really proud of her for volunteering every morning in that program. Her art teacher and Gail connected that summer as she watched and learned from him as he taught students when some of them couldn’t even hold a paintbrush, but gosh, they had fun! They often spoke about their experiences through Gail’s senior year. The next summer before college, Gail was the assistant director in a paid position and from there went on to earn a degree in teaching students with disabilities and on to training teachers!

Teacher appreciation is a little different this year

For teachers

I am sure that we all agree that this year’s Teacher Appreciation week is like no other before it. First of all, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, teachers have found themselves not teaching from their classrooms but from their homes. Through many media reports we have witnessed the challenges faced paired with the creativity of our children’s teachers as they responded to an abrupt shift to remote learning. And we are grateful for their determination and ingenuity in continuing to teach!

For students and their new “parent-teachers”

And then there is that army of parents who literally overnight found themselves in the role of a teacher proxy. Parents have accepted this newfound responsibility in various ways and at various levels while, for many at the same time, moving their workplace to their homes. Their efforts to keep instruction going at home have helped them realize firsthand that teaching is hard work each and every day! So, this year’s Teacher Appreciation week offers an opportunity to also thank parents who have become “surrogate teachers” during this crisis.

And for teachers in higher education

Yet there is one more group of teachers who have also found themselves, overnight, in a “new normal.” That group is the majority of teachers in higher education who also hastily moved their classrooms to the remote learning venue. Although instructors in higher education may not be often thought of as “teachers,” what they engage in every day is teaching.  It includes those teaching in a community college, in a four-year college or university, in professional schools. They too have found their world turned upside down and forced to adapt on the fly, along with their students. New tools and teaching techniques never before used by many who worked primarily on campuses are being applied now. We have all witnessed the utter transformation of higher education and those who teach there during this pandemic.

Take a moment and ponder that teacher who changed your life!

Yes, this is the week to appreciate teachers and, in past years, this celebration has been focused on those who are K-12 teachers. As it should be. But for this year let’s extend our thanks and gratitude to all who, through their teaching, are contributing to our country’s children and students and to our future. Thank you!

Dr. Mary Jane Pearson is the Chief Academic Advisor for HotChalk. One of her notable accomplishments is the design of the highly successful model of support and mentoring for online higher education faculty, which has resulted in over 90% retention rate for online faculty, and an overall average of 4.5/5 faculty rating from student end-of-course evaluations. Dr. Pearson’s unique credentials as a teacher educator include chairing the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC), the largest educator licensing agency in the U.S., during which she co-authored the research on California’s beginning teacher support that has become the worldwide standard for the induction, mentoring and support of new teachers. In addition, Dr. Pearson was appointed by the U.S. President to serve as the Regional Representative for the U.S. Department of Education. In recognition of her service to education, Dr. Pearson was named California Teacher Educator of the Year. Dr. Pearson earned her PhD from the University of Kansas.

Dr. Gail Kirby is the Online Instructional Mentor for HotChalk and is a published subject matter expert in online higher education faculty support & mentoring. In addition, she is an Associate Professor of Special Education at Western Kentucky University. Dr. Kirby has 33 years of experience teaching P-12; over 25 years in higher education, including community college, and both private and public college and university settings. She earned her EdD from the University of San Francisco.