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State school chief to teachers: You are changing lives. Thank you.

At the end of a tough testing week for many teachers, here are some words of appreciation from State School Superintendent Richard Woods.

By Richard Woods

As my thoughts turned toward Teacher Appreciation Month 2016 -- which we'll celebrate throughout the month of May here in Georgia -- specific names and faces kept coming to mind.

I thought of Mrs. Phillips, my third grade teacher, who wrote a letter to encourage me when I moved away, and Mrs. Michaels, my fifth grade teacher, who drove me home from school every day. I remembered my art teacher, Mr. Hudson, and Mrs. Linda Roberts, the math teacher who worked across from me when I first became a teacher, and provided a wonderful example in my early years as an educator.

I thought of the teachers who have shaped my life, and then I thought of the many teachers I have met here in Georgia who are deeply committed to doing their jobs well. Their work is not easy. The circumstances are not perfect. But they are focused, first and foremost, on their students.

I also want to thank our legislators, particularly Sen. Lindsey Tippins for passing Senate Bill 364. I believe their actions speak loud and clear, and show that they appreciate all that our teachers do, because they recognize the burden of too many state-mandated tests and the over-emphasis of these tests on teacher evaluations. They took action to allow our teachers to be creative and teach again rather than focus on just a test.

Senate Bill 364 would remove many of the barriers that have caused more of our teachers to leave the profession and fewer young people to choose teaching as a profession. The Legislature overwhelmingly demonstrated to teachers they do recognize the difficult job you have and the time and energy spent on testing and evaluations. While I know this one piece of legislation will not take away all the challenges you face, I believe it is a big step in the right direction.

To all teachers: I want you to know how much you are appreciated and how essential your contribution is. Students cannot receive an excellent education without you -- you are truly educating Georgia’s future, each and every day. I want you to know that I’ve heard your concerns about the profession and will continue to work, in every way I am able, to create an environment that allows you to teach and your students to learn.

To my fellow Georgians: please join me in celebrating our teachers this month. Here are several resources that will help you do just that:

Here are graphics to share on various social media: herehere and here.  And here is a template for a thank you note.

I also encourage you to share stories of great teachers using the hashtag #thankaGAteacher.

Again, I want to express my sincere gratitude to each and every one of Georgia’s teachers. Please don’t ever doubt that your work makes a difference. You are changing the lives of Georgia’s students, every single day.



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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.