"Who was your favorite educator?"
This is one of my favorite questions to ask colleagues at my company. Not only is it a great conversation starter, but, a way to really get to know one's colleagues and their life journey and what most impacts them. Plus, as technology professionals focused on education, it's something we're all passionate about.
Still, it's tough to answer. Even for me, it turns out.
Someone asked me a few weeks ago who my favorite educator was growing up, and it made me realize how hard it is to choose just one person or one story. I quickly realized that so many educators made an impact on my life that several sprang quickly to mind.
First and foremost, I think of my father. He wasn't a teacher in the professional sense, but he had one of the biggest educational impacts on my life. One of the greatest lessons he taught me was the importance of always thinking two steps ahead and being prepared for what comes next. In the world of business and of education, this lesson has been a priceless gift.
The next person I think about is my 11th grade teacher, Mr. Johnson. While I was not the best math student, his physics class taught me not only about numbers and science, but also about the importance of rigorous analysis and clear, objective thinking in the face of challenge. Mr. Johnson's trust and respect inspired me to achieve more than I ever thought I could, and the confidence and lessons he instilled in me impact my life each and every day.
I also think about the librarian in my elementary school, Ms. Silvius. She fueled my love of reading by allowing me to check out more books than normally allowed and kept a watchful eye over me as I stayed in the library after hours to finish them. Her quiet support and genuine interest in me inspired me not only to become a lifelong reader, but also to spend time volunteering in libraries throughout high school and college. To this day, local libraries remain a place of peace, encouragement, and learning for me.
And in graduate school, Dr. Arlinghaus believed in me and supported me through challenging personal times. Through it all, he never quit on me and demanded excellence both in and out of the classroom. That unwavering encouragement and steadfast reinforcement helped me find the confidence to rise above and chart a course forward. I am forever grateful for his inspiration.
And the list goes on.
There are so many teachers, administrators, and educators who impacted my life; I am unable to pick just one to highlight. And as I think back on all that they collectively taught me, I realize the incredible gifts I received every time I pause to think a step ahead, or tackle an analytic challenge or pick up a book. I would not be who I am today without them.
But my struggle to pick out a favorite educator is not unique.
Sharing my stories got me thinking about how many people must have many just like my own. It's how my company came to the idea to start the Inspired2Educate awareness program, a year-long recognition program that encourages current education professionals to share a story about an educator -- a teacher, administrator, or staff member -- who inspired them to start their careers in education.
Over the next few months, we will collect and share these stories across the country on the Inspired2Educate website and across our social media channels using the hashtag #Inspired2Educate, spotlighting those who make the biggest impact. We will offer a modest reward to the "winners" as a small way for us to say "thank you" for the incredible work educators do each and every day to support and inspire their students, our children.
At a time when many states are experiencing teacher and administrator shortages, we hope this campaign will remind those thinking of pursuing a career in education just how important and impactful their decision could be. Together, let's unite behind the message that every dedicated educator who has made a positive impact -- generation after generation -- is worthy of all of our recognition, respect, and appreciation.
I encourage you to take a moment to visit the Inspired2Educate website to submit your story and read from others. Let's work together to celebrate all educators, not just for what they have done for us, but also for what they continue to do for our students, schools, and communities.
It's time to say thank you, share our gratitude, and inspire those who will do the same for the next generation. I look forward to reading your stories.
Kermit S. Randa is chief executive officer of PeopleAdmin, the leader in cloud-based talent management solutions for education and government. He has twenty years of executive experience leading firms in the software industry.
"Who was your favorite educator?"