Tuesday we celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Day, an annual occasion to pause from the hectic pace of our lives to say "thank you" to our teachers.
The celebration, part of Teacher Appreciation Week, honors our nation's educators and recognizes the positive difference they make not only in our classrooms but also in our lives.
It's virtually impossible to separate the contributions of the teachers we've had from the successes we've achieved as parents, as workers, as members of our communities ... and together as a global society. Their role is that valuable.
In fact, if it were up to us, we'd make every day National Teacher Appreciation Day, or National Teacher Day, as it's also called.
In a sense, that's what we're trying to do with the Inspired2Educate program, which we launched in February. We wanted to encourage a needed, inspiring, national conversation around the many different ways educators leave a lasting positive impact on us -- not just while we're in school, but for as long as we live.
Think about it. Whether it was a professor, guidance counselor, art teacher or principal, some educator in each of our lives went above and beyond to inspire our learning. And for that gift -- for challenging us and believing in our ability to succeed -- this day can only scratch the surface of repaying the deeper gratitude that's due.
So far, the Inspired2Educate program has received more than a hundred incredible stories of hope and inspiration. We receive them daily, and we hope to receive many more. One of the most rewarding and moving aspects of reading through these submissions is their incredible diversity and authenticity. Inspiration is a very personal thing, and can mean something very different to each person.
For example, a recent submission came from a flamenco dance teacher at an elementary school in Washington, D.C., who was inspired by her own dance mentor to forgo a career in professional dance in instead go into education. At school, she uses her classes to teach young students not just choreography, but important life skills such as cooperation, hard work, responsibility, and self-respect. "I always make certain students can laugh at their mistakes --and relax enough to see their strengths and weaknesses without being hard on themselves," she said. "Together we relish in the learning process."
Another moving story came from a math teacher in Massachusetts, who insisted she was "one of those kids" in second grade who couldn't seem to find her path and received constant criticism about her lack of direction. That is, until a patient and caring educator, Mrs. Smith, found a way to tap into her full potential by taking her out of the classroom and into the gym. There she learned about focus and discipline while helping to clean lockers, stack yoga mats, and organize equipment. "There under the [balance] beam, I learned to add 1/4 and 1/2. Up on the beam, I practiced while Mrs. Smith talked about fractions and gravity, momentum, and muscle cells. She spoke of history and maps. I jumped and twirled, and began to know that the world was interesting," the math teacher recalled. "At 27, I completed a B.S. degree. At 39, I got my Master of Education. I am one of the lucky ones. Someone saw me as worthwhile."
The inspiration to educate can strike at any time, not just between the years of kindergarten and high school. We heard an incredible story about a young man who, after working as a 911 call operator for many years, was motivated to create and teach a preparatory course at his local community college for those interested in entering the profession. Emergency dispatcher training is not standardized across the country, and many in the profession have little to no opportunity to prepare for the demands of the job ahead. Inspired by his mentor, Sue Pivetta, a woman who created one of the first standardized college dispatch courses in the U.S., our storyteller "decided to just go for it," he said. Now a lead instructor at Palm Beach State College, he has prepared and inspired dozens of students for the dispatch profession. "If it wasn't for Sue's inspiration and trailblazing, I wouldn't have never had the vision to see this through," he said. "My teaching success is because of her."
Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, and yet, educators around the country continue to find creative ways to light that spark within their students year after year. So, join me in thanking our teachers -- not just on this annual day of appreciation, but each and every day in between -- for all they do to make our futures burn a bit brighter.
Kermit S. Randa is chief executive officer of PeopleAdmin, the leader in cloud-based talent management solutions for education and government. He has 20 years of executive experience leading firms in the software industry.