May 6, 2022
This week marks Teacher Appreciation Week where districts and communities provide educators with words of encouragement, gratitude and honor for all that they do in classrooms for our young people. Indeed teachers have had a challenging job in these past couple of years mixing virtual and in-classroom instruction, gauging any stress or uneasiness among their students as we get back into in-person learning, and coordinating other school activities as we all grapple with the new practices, protocols and procedures in the (post) pandemic era.
Teaching has always been a tough job. It is way more than just facilitating the transfer of knowledge and relaying information to a classroom full of young minds. Educators from the get go have molded perspectives, shaped worldviews, and inspired our young minds to achieve goals we have never even thought to be feasible. The onset of several public education reform initiatives has also seen shifts in the teachers’ scope of work and has added or modified the role of teaching to include assessment analyst, syllabus designer, trainer, facilitator, behavior manager, networker, observer…. amongst many other responsibilities.
School districts across the country – Denver included – have now seen in the last two decades the decreasing number of individuals who enter the teaching profession. The COVID pandemic exacerbated a trend that has long been coming: the slow but eventual attrition of teachers in our schools. Many of our teachers have expressed fatigue and exhaustion in this line of work for all the requirements and expectations. Survey after survey also indicates teachers are unhappy about their pay, benefits, and lack of professional development supports that align with the ever-changing challenges of the modern classroom.
While many of these frustrations and challenges can – and should – be addressed by the public education system, there are steps communities can take that are outside of the purview of the school system. Denver Public Schools Foundation’s A to Z Fund places grants into the hands of teachers and students to support innovative and creative learning practices directly in the classroom. Unrestricted funding raised from the community allows DPS Foundation to employ a $1 Million Fund to take whole school innovations and practices to address equity challenges and support teachers in serving their students better. Aside from funding, communities can also galvanize around activities that show support for our public schools teachers: discounts on retail items, volunteer mentors from the private sector, recognition from neighborhood associations, and other acts that simply show that we value their positions in our schools, the role they play in our children’s lives, and the important contribution they make in shaping our community to be the civil and democratic society that we all want to live in.
School districts may take grand gestures to reform, reorganize, and restructure the system to address what our teachers need as professionals. But the community can take simple, everyday action steps to provide teachers the boost they need as important members of our society.
Richard Anthony Tagle