A Thank You to Teachers | Facing History & Ourselves
Abby Weiss and her 6th grade class, B&W

A Thank You to Teachers

Facing History's Chief Officer of Program and Thought Leadership shares memories of a favorite teacher and offers support for the teachers of today.

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation week, I am writing today to thank each of you for what you do. 

You have a lot on you—carrying the weight of these complicated times, building community in your classrooms, bringing students of all different backgrounds and perspectives together to learn with curiosity and empathy, leading them to understand their role in the world, and, perhaps most importantly, helping your students find hope when it seems to be in short supply. Here at Facing History & Ourselves, we want you to know how much we appreciate and see you and your hard work.

Today I am reflecting on my own teachers in the Washington, DC Public Schools, and I am thinking specifically about my sixth grade teacher, Mary Alice Jackson. Mrs. Jackson was legendary; I had always heard that she was fun, smart, interesting, caring, and held students to account. I watched with envy as my older siblings came home with tales of their days in her classroom. But it wasn’t until it was finally my turn to step foot into Mrs. Jackson’s world that I finally understood what made her so special.

I will date myself here, but the year was 1976, and the presidential election season (Jimmy Carter vs. Gerald Ford) was in full swing as the school year began. Mrs. Jackson immediately announced that we would organize and lead a mock election in which we had to learn about the candidates, understand their policy positions, talk to other students, and then coordinate an actual election in which 4th through 6th graders voted for their candidates with ballots that we created. While I can’t remember who won the school-wide election, I can vividly recall the excitement we all felt about every activity leading up to election day. She made the issues feel real and important, and we were all deeply invested in the outcome of the election, both at school and in real life. 

That was just one way in which Mrs. Jackson made the world of grown-ups and the issues of the time relevant and meaningful. And she helped us understand that we could make a difference.

I felt so inspired and hopeful as a little girl in that classroom. And, even in these troubling times, I am more resilient and optimistic because of the lessons I learned from Mrs. Jackson. And while it is a different time, I know that today each of you works to make your classrooms places of meaning, community, learning, and hope. And that isn’t so easy right now. So on behalf of all of us at Facing History & Ourselves, I thank you for your hard work, dedication, resilience, commitment to your students, and your partnership with us. We remain here for you.