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The cultivators

When I was little, a number of teachers told me I couldn’t write. They told me my ideas didn’t make sense, that my writing didn’t follow the structure of good composition. But then I met Dr. Loonam.

My high school English teacher, Dr. Loonam was the one who walked me through books like “Catcher in the Rye,” “1984,” and “Black Boy,” challenged me to think past convention, and made me write a journal entry every day. He was also the one who helped me believe that I could in fact become a good writer.

With books and red apples in hand, teachers like Dr. Loonam have inspired countless students like me and taught us what we need to know to succeed. Yet too often we undervalue their work. We celebrate singers, artists, scientists and mathematicians, but we often forget to recognize the people who taught them to sing, draw or practice proper scientific technique.

Teachers make achievements possible. Without them, there would be nothing to celebrate.

Just last month, communities throughout America showed teachers the sort of appreciation they deserve. But as a state, we should show our appreciation year-round.

The first step to appreciating outstanding teachers is knowing who they are and where they teach. Our state make big progress earlier this year when it adopted new teacher evaluation guidelines. Instead of giving all teachers a rubber stamp, teachers will soon get meaningful feedback that incorporates multiple observations, including one that doesn’t get announced ahead of time. That means a school principal will see what really happens day-to-day and have the chance to either celebrate classroom accomplishments or focus on areas for improvement.

Our teachers deserve both recognition for the work they do and support to become even better educators. Teachers like Dr. Loonam

It used to be discouraging and frustrating when my teachers said I couldn’t write. But Dr. Loonam taught me their words were silly. Everyone has the ability to do anything they put their mind to. As a state, we have the ability to give teachers both recognition for the work they do and support to become even better educators. We owe it to all the Dr. Loonams out there who enabled students like me to pursue our goals.

[Photo by Jimmie via Flickr] 

Priscilla W. Guo is a 2012 School Reform Blogging Fellow for NYCAN. She is a sophomore at Hunter College High School in New York City, where she participates in the debate team and Term Council. She also founded HUNICEF, a high school UNICEF club that educates, advocates and fundraises for children around the world.