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

14 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.

Replying to:
Cher Ping
Being with nature does provide us with the opportunities to reflect, recharge, and make sense of who we are and what we represent. Thank you Mary for sharing your learning adventure that you have had with Ms. Healy. Although I have had a number of such learning adventures with Mr. Chan, Ms. Lee, & Ms. Kee when I was at elementary and high school in Singapore, my greatest adventure of them all was with my late mum who was a primary school teacher. She has provided me with opportunities and support to explore, make mistakes and learn. As a human being, I have been brought up in an environment created by my mum that embraces humility and compassion. As a teacher, I have been blessed to have my mum as a role model; I have observed how she prepared 40 empty egg shells for her art lesson (for two weeks, my sisters and I had 2 hard-boiled eggs each for breakfast), how she spoke (learn) in multiple languages (English, Malay, Mandarin, Chinese dialects) to engage parents to better support their children, and how she stayed up till midnight on Sundays to prepare the lesson plans for the week. Teaching to her is not a job or a career, it is a lifestyle. I am living that lifestyle now and have been living that lifestyle since I was a young graduate teacher in Singapore 25 years ago. Thank you mum!!

Replying to:
Mary Sugrue
Dear Cher Ping, I'm stunned that someone is reading this in Singapore and took the time to share such lovely stories about your mother. Such a well-written and lovely tribute. I enjoyed picturing you eating 2 hard-boiled eggs for breakfast for two weeks! Your story really resonated with me because my mother was a teacher too. I also have memories of my mother planning lessons on a Sunday night and bringing tons of copybooks home to correct in the evening. I remember how she would consult our set of encyclopedias to make that she had the correct information for history and geography lessons. While I never had to eat boiled eggs, I do know that every cereal box and scrap of paper in our house was saved to making teaching aids. I saw firsthand how much time, energy, and dedication goes into teaching. I remember how tired she would be some evenings after a long day at school, and yet she would still be smiling and taking care of us. Because of her and Mrs. Healy, I went into teaching knowing that it was a tough job and that it would require considerable energy and dedication. My mother retired from teaching more than 20 years ago but is still interested in my work. I regularly go to her for advice when thinking about ways to approach a lesson or an activity. She always takes time to listen and share what she would do. She still wants to know how a lesson went and more importantly what the children thought and said. I think we are both fortunate to have teacher moms in our lives. Thank you again for reaching out.

Replying to:
Kofo Karunwi
Thank you Mary for sharing your reflections. I am reading them in Nigeria on World Teachers’ Day and reflecting on those teachers that have impacted mu life as well as children that have left indelible marks on my soul. You have inspired me to write about my personal journey to becoming a teacher and remaining in teaching constantly striving to leave good memories. I celebrate dedicated teachers.

Replying to:
Kofo Karunwi
Today I remember those teachers that truly made a difference in my life: Mum, Dad, Mama Vera Cruz ( nursery), Mrs Oti ( Promary 1), Mrs Ademoroti & Mr Sammie Oki(Secondary), Prof Jide Timothy-Asobele & Dr Paul Smoker (Uni), Mrs Caroline Mink & Mrs Cassou-Moore( Teacher training )- their zeal was unparalleled and rubbed off on me, Mr Charlie Morris (the most outstanding, encouraging, supportive & hands on headteacher I ever worked with in my over 30 years of teaching). I celebrate them all.

Replying to:
Mary Sugrue
Dear Kofo, Thank you for taking the time to name and celebrate the teachers that made a difference throughout your life and teaching career in Nigeria. Reading through the posts, I see comments from all over the world - we all have something in common - we were lucky to have teachers who inspired us. I hope you enjoyed International Teachers' Day

Replying to:
Sheila Creed
Lovely article Mary. I follow your adventures through the extended family network. Well done you. Sheila

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