May 4, 2021

During the pandemic, I’ve been able to walk through the trails and forests around Washington, D.C. There is something calming walking in the presence of centuries old trees and contemplating the important role they play in our lives—fresh air to breath, shelter for animals, adventure for children, and peace for the urban hiker.

I can trace my interest in trees and wildlife to some of my earliest memories. In particular, I remember my junior infants classroom, a nature table, and Mrs. Healy. Each day, she asked us what we saw on the way to school and took time to listen to our answers. Through these exchanges, I learned that you could count the rings of trees to tell their age, that a sycamore leaf has five fingers, and that earthworms have saddles. And somehow during these exchanges, she taught me how to read, write, and count. Stepping through the door of her classroom brought curiosity and wonder to five-year-old me. I think often how fortunate I was to have a teacher like her.

As a former teacher of almost 13 years, I appreciate how rewarding teaching can be. My students taught me many valuable life lessons, such as the importance of kindness, fairness, taking turns, listening, and patience. I know how much time, energy, and dedication goes into teaching. Being a teacher and contributing to a young person’s learning is a unique privilege—and yes, it can be very stressful!

I say all this knowing that I have not faced the circumstances that teachers are facing now during the COVID-19 pandemic. There has never been a more stressful time to be a teacher.

I often think of my colleagues in Liberia. This past year, they’ve responded to the learning crisis with courage and determination that learning must and will continue. They’ve driven long distances to remote areas to get reading and learning materials to learners at home. They’ve made radio programs and worked diligently to equip the current generation with the knowledge and skills they will need for their future. They’re doing so even with concerns for the health and safety of their loved ones, anxiety about the future, and the daunting challenge of returning to schools where many students have dropped out or fallen behind.

This Teacher Appreciation Week, as I walk through the forest, I will be thinking about teachers past and present and the important role they’re playing in our communities. I want to say thank you to Mrs. Healy for teaching me how to find peace in the forest and introducing me to a career that brings so much reward. I will be thinking about the seeds of knowledge, wonder, and curiosity that teachers around the world are planting during this most difficult time. I want them to know that I am grateful for their efforts and that their work is meaningful and will impact generations to come.

What teacher would you like to remember during Teacher Appreciation Week? Please share below.

Mary Sugrue, EDC senior international technical advisor for international basic education, has over 20 years of experience in early grade reading and numeracy instruction, gender integrated programming, inclusive education pedagogy, and teacher professional development.

 

Elementary and Secondary Education

8 Replies

Comments


Replying to:
Adamu Auta Adamu
This is highly commendable, teachers are the builders of the world without them nothing comes to fruition. It is laudable seeing such post appreciating teacher especially those in the Africa continent like Liberia and Nigeria. Thank you Mary Sugrue

Replying to:
Mary Sugrue
Thank you, Adamu. I am glad you enjoyed the post.

Replying to:
Hillary Sheridan
Great article and so true about the lasting impact teachers make on children’s lives.

Replying to:
Mary Sugrue
Thank you, Hillary. So nice to log in today and see your name here!

Replying to:
Amy West
It made me feel so good about the world to know I have a colleague walking on the trails of D.C. thinking about others - their mark on her life in ways both small and grand, echoes from the past and meaningful relationships creating needed change today.

Replying to:
Mary Sugrue
Thank you for your kind words, Amy. We are so fortunate to have the forests on our doorsteps here in D.C. I've learned a valuable lesson on the importance of taking time to pause and reflect. I often think about the families and children that don't have access to these resources and can't tune in to nature to relax. I hope to use this time to reflect on the learning opportunities we design for our teachers and learners and how we can support their overall well-being.

Replying to:
Fasika Minda
Lovely reflection about teaching and teachers, Mary! I've been also thinking about my teachers throughout this week and I kept thinking about this one teacher (her name is Mekdim) and she was loved by all of us in the classroom when we were elementary school. She always used take us to other places outside of school as a learning trip. I think that shaped me to always be curious and enjoy traveling & discovering new places. So I'm thankful for her!

Replying to:
Mary Sugrue
Thank you for sharing, Fasika. I enjoyed hearing about your teacher Mekdim. Your experience sounds like my experience with Mrs Healy. Teacher Appreciation Week is new to me; I welcomed the opportunity to think about teachers and their influences on many lives, especially those I met when I was very young. I don't think I appreciated how much they impacted my learning and attitude to education until much later in life. I like that Medkim awakened curiosity and a love of travel and discovery in you. We often associate school and our teachers with school subjects, but they also help us develop life skills that serve us much later in life. Thanks again for sharing, Fasika.

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