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Superintendent Evers reminds all: ‘Teachers make a difference’

May 07, 2013

In honor of the May 5-11 observance of National PTA Teacher Appreciation Week, State Superintendent Tony Evers issued an editorial reminding us of the importance of teachers.

The commentary penned by Evers, who earned a Ph.D. in educational administration from UW-Madison in 1986, is titled: “Teaching: A noble calling.”

Following is the opinion piece:

Teachers make a difference. From the youngest students learning to read to college- and career-bound graduates ready for their next steps in education and the workforce, it’s classroom teachers who stand alongside parents in guiding young people on their path forward.

It’s that dedication to the future that keeps teachers going even in a political atmosphere that put a target on their backs, making them the most scapegoated of Wisconsin public servants. The past two years have been exceptionally difficult with larger class sizes, all sorts of new workplace rules, and lost wages, benefits, and resources to support students. Whether you believe Act 10 was wise or wrong, it has changed the working environment in our public schools and that has had an impact on staff morale.

This year’s MetLife “Survey of the American Teacher” found teachers’ job satisfaction had dropped to a 25-year low. Only 39 percent of teachers surveyed nationwide for the February 2013 report said they were “very satisfied” with their jobs, down from 44 percent a year earlier. Researchers attributed the dissatisfaction with budget cuts leading to larger class sizes and fewer resources. This is something we know about here. The last state budget cut $1.6 billion in public education funding.

The situation can change. Wisconsin’s 2013-15 budget bill, which is being worked on now, could improve education finance in our state, but it will take courageous action by legislators. They need to fix funding that is essentially flat for public schools because it favors policy proposals that expand and increase funding for independent charter and private voucher schools. Politics is no easy task, but for the sake of our 870,000 public school children, increasing funding for our public schools is a worthy fight.

The women and men who educate our students know the value of a worthy effort. That’s why they went into teaching. Educators don’t work with kids for fame, though occasionally a parent or student will offer thanks. They don’t teach for wealth, though a family-supporting paycheck and benefits that include a dignified retirement should be a minimum. Those who work in education love children and gain satisfaction by helping young people learn new skills, master new lessons. That melding of tenderness and high standards, skill and persistence, devotion and optimism makes teaching a noble calling.

And that is the encouragement I have to offer for the May 5 to 11 observance of Teacher Appreciation Week. To the men and women in our schools; for the young people entering college who always dreamed of being a teacher — teachers make a difference.

While some would discourage young people from becoming teachers, I feel just the opposite. The politics around education will be difficult for the foreseeable future, but our students will always need talented teachers. Public education is making dramatic changes. We are boosting college and career readiness for all students through new assessments based on the Common Core State Standards and a new evaluation system that includes educators in making decisions about how evaluation will improve classroom instruction and student achievement. These innovations make it a great time to be in education. Be a part of the future. Make a difference. Teach.

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