It’s Teacher Appreciation Week—a time for our communities to celebrate the vital roles that teachers play in the lives of people young and old. Though First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt insisted that Congress establish an annual day dedicated to teacher recognition in 1953, it was not until 1980 that the first Teacher Appreciation Day was held and 1984 when it was expanded into the Teacher Appreciation Week we have come to know.
Amid the upheavals that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, the multifaceted and essential roles of teachers have come into focus as never before. We’ve been hearing many stories in the last couple of years of teachers being lauded as superheroes as remote schooling has helped many parents become aware of the rigors of full-time teaching for the very first time. Yet these positive appraisals may be a double-edged sword. We’ve also been hearing stories of teachers being asked to sacrifice their own health with martyrlike dedication so that other workers with children can resume their professional lives. How quickly we forget that teachers are also critically important professionals, that many are parents themselves, and that the humanity and contributions of teachers deserve immense appreciation whether they are parents or not. Meanwhile, we are also seeing a great many educators reimagine their careers outside of the classroom as they reel from the challenges of the recent years. Even amid these difficulties, a great many educators remain dedicated to the craft of teaching and are continuing to show up for students in highly engaging ways every day. For this, we are immensely grateful and call for celebration.
At Facing History, we are privy to some of the most powerful stories of how teachers have impacted their students and even altered their life trajectories—from this student-turned-activist to a student navigating her identity as a recent immigrant to the United States. We also celebrate the important role that teachers can play in inspiring students to transgress restrictive expectations that may be placed on members of their particular social group and align their aspirations with their authentic strengths and desires. Teachers are uniquely poised to carry out this social change work that is so central to bending the arc of history toward justice one young person at a time. We believe that anyone who shows up to do this work everyday is a bona fide hero even if their feats are not always recognized as such.
This week and every week of the year, Facing History witnesses teachers delivering transformative educational experiences that equip our communities to thrive, and we are dedicated to standing beside teachers as they push through the challenges of this moment. We invite you to explore three essays from our archives that speak to some of the unique roles that educators have played in strengthening our communities, as well as some of the stressors that hundreds of thousands of teachers face and how schools and communities can better support them:
Teaching in the Light of Women’s History
Lends context to the question of how we have come to value teachers and education in the ways that we do, and how women educators of the past have laid the groundwork for ongoing teacher mobilization.
Today is the #WeNeedBlackTeachers Day of Action
Addresses the importance of Black educators in schools and elevates anti-racist approaches to teacher retention outlined by researchers at the Center for Black Educator Development.
Sometimes Empathy is Hard for Teachers
Addresses some of the unique stressors facing educators today and strategies that both school leaders and teachers themselves can use to promote healthy emotional engagement in the classroom and ensure stronger mechanisms of support for teachers.