Throughout Alexandria City Public Schools, there are heroes who welcome children everyday into their classrooms and make sure that each student’s unique academic, emotional and social needs are met. These heroes don’t let their students give up, no matter how hard the work becomes. They are quick to praise when students succeed, and equally quick to provide support and guidance when students struggle. These heroes serve as mentors and coaches outside the classroom and school house. For many, their advocacy and support of families often extends well beyond the work day and are not defined by the school calendar.
Of course, I’m talking about the 1,400 teachers working throughout Alexandria’s 16 public schools who shape the future of more than 14,000 students. One of our elementary school teachers recently said, “I don’t want my students to just participate in the world; I want them to change it.” And her students feel her commitment. Said one of her students, “She thought if we didn’t believe we should move forward, then we would stand still. And standing still gets you nowhere.”
Pursuing a teaching career is not for the faint of heart. Nationally, teacher job satisfaction is at a 25-year low, according to the annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. The national survey says that more than half of teachers report feeling great stress several days a week. We also know from education research on effective schools and student achievement, and through our own personal experiences, that teachers are one of the most important variables in the success of students. As a result, Alexandria City Public Schools continues to work towards recruiting, supporting and retaining highly effective teachers. We are addressing these goals by strengthening teacher development, mentoring first year teachers, and offering a range of professional learning opportunities during the school year and through summer academies.
In our own recent survey, the overwhelming majority of teacher respondents believe what is taught will make a difference in the lives of their students. That is a very positive indicator of how our teachers feel about the work they do. I see the effects of that belief system while observing learning-in-action across our schools.
Teachers inspiring and encouraging students to be lifelong learners.
Teachers defining their students by their gifts, not by their disabilities.
Teachers demonstrating the extraordinary ability to tailor their teaching to the specific needs of students.
Teachers believing in their students’ abilities to achieve and encouraging them to believe in themselves.
Perhaps this recent statement from one of our students about his teacher sums it up best: “She gives us hard stuff because she knows that we can handle it. She teaches us how to try our best, even on our worst day.”
That is a lesson we can all live by! Please join me in celebrating our teachers and thanking them for their service to the students and families of Alexandria.