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Perspective | A note of praise for our teachers

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Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to our state’s incredible educators! I want to take this opportunity to recognize all that teachers have experienced this past year and to thank you all for your unwavering dedication to your students throughout the difficulties that COVID-19 has presented. While it was uncharted territory for so many, teachers never stopped. 

You all became technology experts overnight and immediately transitioned your classrooms into entirely virtual places for teaching and learning. You created new ways to captivate your students and engage them from behind a screen. You found new methods to help students you often could no longer see in person. 

You improvised and did whatever it took to ensure our students continued to receive the best education possible. You understood the unique social and emotional needs of your students. You played a major role in providing a sense of stability and certainty when our students so desperately needed it.  

While we often talk about how the challenges of the pandemic have affected students, its impact on educators has received less attention. When many schools transitioned back into the classroom for the first time since last March, teachers had to adapt yet again. You juggled hybrid and in-person learning. You juggled a new schedule with alternating A-days and B-days. You persevered through these challenges, all while continuing to provide exceptional support and guidance for your students.  

In short, you created an environment that put students’ needs ahead of adults’ needs. 

Throughout these past few months, my team and I have been traveling across North Carolina on our district visits and voices initiative to meet with educators and district leaders. We have had amazing experiences so far, witnessing first-hand the challenges and triumphs of the past 14 months. On our visits, we have had both formal and informal conversations with teachers about their past year.

I want you to know that I have heard from so many of you during these last few months — your stories, your concerns, and your successes. I have also seen you — I have seen you remain steadfast in your commitment to our students, to your students. I have seen you push yourselves on behalf of students and their well-being. I see you being a source of light and life for so many.

As a former high school English teacher, I recognize that the student-teacher relationship is paramount to the quality of our education system. Teachers are the foundational guides to a bright future for North Carolina. They set their students on a path toward success. We have seen teachers gracefully navigate a challenging year while continuing to provide meaningful student experiences both virtually and in the classroom.

But I know that teacher burnout is real. Selflessly shouldering the extra responsibility of both the academic and social-emotional needs of young people has undoubtedly taken its toll. What’s difficult for those not in the profession to understand is that this year, teachers have had to address the basic needs of students while trying to survive the pandemic with their own families.

In fact, many have expressed concern that we will be unable to staff summer school because teachers need a break. And yet, in all the district visits I’ve been on this month, I’ve been told that summer school is fully staffed because “teachers want to see their kids through to the end.” Amazing. Truly amazing.

I know you have gone to extraordinary lengths so that students can continue to learn and grow. As a parent, I am extremely grateful for all the work you have poured into this profession. As your superintendent, I couldn’t be prouder to lead a state with such incredible educators.

Thank you for choosing to be a teacher!

Catherine Truitt

Catherine Truitt is the North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction.