As the graduation tassels are turned and the celebratory cakes cut, a special thank-you to the teachers who make it all possible. Both of my daughters attended Littleton public schools since preschool. Our youngest, Sophie, graduated with thousands of young people comprising the class of 2018. I can’t imagine a better education than the one they received right here in our own neighborhood over the past 16 years.
Through preschool, elementary, middle and high school, teachers have quietly and heroically helped to expand our children’s understanding, improve their learning habits, create wonderful educational experiences and touch their lives in lasting and important ways.
There were times when we as parents had to do our part too. Like the time our oldest, Grace, was in second grade and the principal canceled afternoon recess. During our meeting, I explained how unstructured play is directly correlated to cognitive development in every evidenced based research study. It wasn’t until I threatened to organize a protest that he promised to reinstate the second recess for 8-year-olds.
My daughters learned to advocate for themselves and their own learning too. They participated in student walkouts, attended vigils for fallen classmates, and exercised their voices both publicly and diplomatically. Exercising democracy remains the most significant purpose of public education.
While many parents may have been preoccupied with grades and test scores, we held a different wish for our children’s education. We firmly believed that the best preparation for a successful life is a beautiful childhood. That’s not an easy task as our world grows increasingly more complicated and divided.
On Dec. 13, 2013, I was parked across from Arapahoe High School waiting to pick up my daughter, when children in their bathing suits fled from the gymnasium and SWAT teams arrived in bulletproof vests scurrying out of unmarked vans. In the past eight years, eleven children in our Arapahoe High School community have been lost to gun violence, suicide, car accidents or cancer. As a community, there is no greater loss than the life of a child. We collectively grieve the too-early passing of the ones who did not wear graduation robes and walk across the stage to receive a high school diploma.
This short editorial is a small tribute to you, teachers and school personnel for the gratitude we feel. Educators are so undervalued and yet we trust you with what we cherish most in all of life — our children.
For all the countless hours you spent planning instruction, for all of the late nights you spent grading papers, for all of the weekends you spent organizing your classrooms, for all of the worry and for all of the love you gave — Thank you.
Our daughters are not only prepared for college and careers, more importantly, they are prepared for life.
Ever since that first day when I delivered my firstborn child to the schoolroom steps, I feel as though I have been holding my breath. Not that there is any guarantee for safety or security beyond high school graduation, but there is a recognition that children are more vulnerable and at times, systems can be dangerous and destructive. In spite of federal intrusions, flat salaries, reduced benefits, endless budget cuts and onerous state policies aimed to micromanage decision-making, teachers have made good on their promise.
The contribution teachers make to the world can never fully be captured, but it can never be diminished either. Educators are the real curators of democracy, the true keepers of community, and the heart of humanity. Thank you for honoring our children, with your profession and your lives.
Angela Engel is the co-founder and executive director of Uniting4Kids, an education author and speaker, committed to the development of women, children and families. See www.angelaengel.com.