Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
At schools across the country, teachers are receiving handmade cards, door decorations, and donut deliveries. Students, parents, and administrators are honoring the challenging and essential work that teachers have always done — work that has been even more demanding this year, as educators were tasked with helping students catch up following COVID closures, supporting them through mental health crises exacerbated by social isolation, and filling in for colleagues during teacher (and substitute teacher) shortages.
To celebrate teachers and all they do, we’re introducing you to a few of the many passionate, innovative, and empathetic educators we met this past year. We’re also sharing some essays they wrote and a few of the self-care rituals that help ground them. We hope you’re as inspired and grateful as we are.
Kate Belin of Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx has developed a math unit about gerrymandering and has been teaching it in election years since 2018. Belin is a Math for America award winner.
Eddie Taylor, who teaches chemistry and coaches track at Centaurus High School in Lafayette, Colorado, knows that representation matters inside the classroom and out. He hopes his Mount Everest expedition will inspire people of color interested in outdoor sports.
Fatuma Hydara, an eighth grade teacher at Neighborhood Charter School: Harlem in New York City, opened a virtual book store and curates selections by authors who are Black, indigenous, persons of color and/or queer.
- ‘Books opened up worlds for me’: This Harlem teacher shares her love of literature and how she’s promoting diverse authors
Xiomarra Robinson, a third grade teacher at Benjamin B. Comegys School in Philadelphia, keeps her classroom open during lunch to give students a safe space to share their feelings. She was recently honored by none other than Quinta Brunson, creator and star of the hit TV series “Abbott Elementary.”
Guillermina McLean, a paraprofessional at Fulton Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado, had to leave school in fifth grade. She went back as an adult and became an award-winning educator.
- This Colorado bilingual educator left school in fifth grade. Now she is passionate about helping students learn.
DeJanee Martinez, who works with elementary school students at Bruce Street School for the Deaf in Newark, made American Sign Language videos during remote learning. She did it to ensure that Deaf and hard-of-hearing students could access their school work.
- This Newark educator returned ‘home’ to teach Deaf students. Now she’s the district’s Teacher of the Year.
Kurt Russell is a history teacher at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Ohio, and the National Teacher of the Year for 2022. Russell created a class on race, gender, and oppression, with units on Black Lives Matter, women’s studies, and the LGBTQ+ community.
- History class is under the microscope. This National Teacher of the Year is diving into lessons of race and oppression.
Reina Cruz, a social studies teacher at Northfield High School in Denver, gets a little help from comedian John Oliver when she teaches her favorite lesson to graduating seniors. Cruz was honored recently with an award often called the “Oscars of teaching.”
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Our First Person essay series seeks to elevate the voices of teachers, students, and others on the front lines of trying to improve public education. Here are some recent personal essays by inspiring teachers and those they taught.
How a hamburger emoji became a powerful teaching tool, by Christina Ramsay
My seventh graders found healing power in disco, by Mark Dickinson
To find joy in teaching again, I needed to grieve, by Inga Puffer
When I was 14, an English teacher saved my life without knowing it, by Kelly Gleischman
After a devastating fire, these two questions guide my lesson plans by Christie Nold
How do educators take care of themselves when they are not at work? They tell us here.
“I really enjoy gardening and working outside with my hands. It is so relaxing to nurture flowers and watch them grow and make our home look so pretty. I also love to build with Lego. Spending time with my family, my husband and children, brings me joy. I like hearing about their days and laughing at their antics. We also go to church together, and that is where my cup gets refilled so I can continue to bless others. When I stay focused on what really matters, I am at peace.”
“My first year of teaching, I was told that I needed to set a firm time to stop working each night — and then actually stop working at that time. For me, this looked like putting down all my work by 7:30 p.m. at the latest. By giving myself a break, I was able to be more productive when I was working and more empathetic with students, which translated into a happier environment for everyone.”
“I love being on my bike, and I love swimming. I think I got up to about 130 miles a couple of weeks ago in one week of cycling. A few times a week, I swim with this amazing team called the Chicago Swedish Fish. But more than that, I shut off my phone. I find my boys and my wife, and play, and just spend time together without any devices.”
If you know of a teacher, counselor, paraprofessional, or administrator who is doing inspiring work and should be featured in Chalkbeat, tell us about them at email@example.com.