Although it is not widely observed in the United States, today is World Teachers’ Day. Since 1994 this has been an annual October 5 observance sponsored by the United Nations to commemorate the work of teachers and their contributions to society. Please join me in honoring teachers around the world. In particularly let’s honor our own teachers and the teachers among us now.
I am grateful for the teachers I had through the years—and I was a full-time student for a very long time, from 1944 until 1966. Even though it was 65 years ago, in 1951, that I graduated from the eighth grade, I remember well all of my grade school teachers.
What teachers do you remember best and with the most admiration?
Even though it is a small rural town, I am grateful for the education I received in Grant City, Missouri. I was not disadvantaged when I got to college and in classrooms with students who had gone to larger and prominent suburban schools.
And even though I attended two small Missouri colleges, I also appreciate the teachers I had there. Again, I was no way disadvantaged when I got to seminary and in classrooms with students who had graduated from more prestigious colleges or universities.
I wish World Teachers’ Day was observed more widely, partly because three of my children are teachers—and my oldest son, Keith, has taught courses several times as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Law. I am also proud of my daughter Karen who is a professor at the University of Arizona.
But it is especially teachers such as my daughter Kathy, who teaches middle school students in the public schools here in Liberty, Missouri, and my son Ken, who teaches at Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, who need special recognition on this day.
Teachers in public primary and secondary schools have challenges different, and perhaps greater, than those who teach on the college and graduate school level. College education is optional, but, with a few exceptions, everyone in this country is required to go to school until they are 15 years old or older, depending on the state.
Most of my teachers have passed on by now, although I do still have regular contact with one of my seminary professors. But for those of you who are younger, let me suggest that today would be a good time to sit down and write a thank you note, or to send a nice email message, to one or more of the teachers who meant a lot to you.
Even more, perhaps you can join me in advocating for better pay for teachers—although it’s much better than it used to be. Recently, I ran across an old record of Dry School, the one-room country school southeast of Allendale, Mo., that my father attended for eight years. In the early 1880s the teachers there had from 58 to 60 pupils and were paid $30 a month.
Still, according to a fairly recently article by the National Educational Association, “Throughout the nation the average earnings of workers with at least four years of college are now over 50 percent higher than the average earnings of a teacher.”
So, in additional to thanking our own teachers of the past, let’s seek to do more to support teachers now.