Last week, I attended three events – two professional and one family – that reminded me how important it is that we recognize and celebrate those who go above and beyond the call of duty
The first was an annual event in my previous district that recognizes two teachers each year with an “Excellence in Teaching” award. One of this year’s recipients teaches Kindergarten in the school I last served as principal. This event always raises my spirits as recipients are asked to give a speech, which often include inspiring stories. This year was no exception. This teacher shared her life’s journey from Haiti to Boston University to teaching in the Boston area. She shared the cultural difference between Bostonian’s “Hi, how ah ya?” and Haitian “Sak pasé?” (“What’s happening?”). She noted that Bostonians typically don’t wait for an answer to this question, but that in Haiti, the question is a real one that involves listening and caring. She described how her Haitian culture and her experience adjusting to a new culture as a college student in Boston have informed her work as a teacher by causing her to take time to recognize and learn about different cultures – and to really listen to what children and families tell her. No wonder that one of the parents in her class referred to her as a “child whisperer.”
The second event was a retirement party in another district I worked in. One of the teachers who was retiring had devoted his entire career to teaching in the poorest neighborhood in one of our gateway cities. As this seemingly gruff veteran addressed the many younger teachers in the room, he reminded them that they may never know when or how they have touched the life of a student, but that they will. With a tearful smile, he read from a card sent to him by a former student who had learned of his pending retirement.
The third event was a family gathering. I was listening to my niece describe with reverence how her child’s first grade teacher had successfully connected with her daughter’s friend, a girl with selective mutism. My niece said, “We thought last year’s teacher was great, but this teacher is truly amazing!” Thinking back to the retirement party, I encouraged her to send the teacher a card or letter telling her why she was amazing.
Whether with a heartfelt conversation, a card or an award, don’t forget to take time to recognize the special accomplishments of those who touch the lives of so many others.