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Appreciating Teachers Through Higher Standards ~ Tricia Ebner

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Tricia Ebner serves as an intervention specialist teaching gifted and talented students in English language arts classes, grades 6-8, at Lake Middle School in Hartville, Ohio. After earning her bachelor’s degree from Miami University-Ohio, she taught English and reading at Woodlan Jr.-Sr. High School in Woodburn, Indiana for three years, then moved to Ohio, where she continued her career. She has earned and subsequently renewed her National Board certification. In addition to classroom teaching, she participates in professional development opportunities in her district, county, state, and nationally as both an attendee and a presenter.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, a time when people pause to celebrate teachers as positive, powerful individuals who help shape and guide children through school. There’s the flurry of teacher appreciation posts on Facebook, the blizzard of pins of creative gift ideas on Pinterest, and even those cards available for sale at local stationery shops. Just like everyone, I have a great deal of appreciation for those who have taught me and for those who have taught and are teaching my son.

But this year, I want to look at teacher appreciation in a different light. I want to take a moment to express some appreciation “horizontally,” if you will. Through the work we’ve been engaged in these past few years, transitioning to the Common Core State Standards, I’ve been able to meet teachers across the country. I have realized more and more that while we may come from different states, teach in school districts of different sizes, and guide students with varying needs, we have an awful lot in common, too. We share common traits and a common purpose. Let’s take a moment to explore these.

Teachers are hard-working, dedicated professionals. Over the past three years, as I’ve traveled within my state and across the country, many of my meetings have taken place on weekends or during summer break. I’ve found myself among hundreds of other teachers, all giving up precious weekend time or relaxing summer days with family and friends because we believe in what we are doing and how important it is for our students’ current and future success. I’ve collaborated with teachers from Massachusetts to Nevada and even Hawaii, working together through videoconference or webinars across six time zones. Everyone wants to bring the best to our classrooms day in and day out, because it’s best for our students.

Teachers have a strong, singular focus on doing what’s good for kids. Go to any educational conference, seminar, or meeting, and you’re going to see rooms full of people who are there because they want to learn more strategies, find more resources, and strengthen their skills as educators so that they can help kids learn, grow, and reach their goals. Teachers’ goals really aren’t all that complicated: we want our students to be successful. When the majority of states and the District of Columbia all signed on to the Common Core State Standards, that meant teachers worked toward developing a deep understanding of the standards and all that was expected within them, because we want our students to be able to do what’s expected of them throughout school and beyond.

Teachers share willingly and eagerly, all the time. Certainly we all know of teachers who have shared with students. That is definitely worth recognizing and appreciating. What I mean here, though, is that teachers share willingly with each other. One of my favorite outcomes of the adoption of the CCSS is that I am able to gather great ideas, strategies, and even lessons and units from teachers across the country. In 2001, when my state adopted its Academic Content Standards, the development of lessons and units aligned to those standards happened “in house,” all within my state. I was part of a working group with the state’s department of education in 2004 to put together model lessons for the standards. It was so exciting and wonderful to be able to share with colleagues from across my state. How much better it has been to share with colleagues from across the country! We’re now “speaking the same language,” so to speak, when it comes to standards. When a teacher in Wisconsin shares a wonderful resource, I no longer have to check to see how similar Wisconsin’s language arts standards are to my own. Instead, I look to see how that resource might be appropriate for my students and their needs and strengths. I am a better teacher thanks to what I’ve learned from teachers across the country.

So as I consider all I appreciate about teachers this week, I want to take a moment to thank my colleagues. From Florida to Alaska, from Maine to Hawaii, our hard work, professional attitudes, singular focus on our students, and willingness to share have made such an impact on me. Because of our work as a profession, our students have a brighter future. You make a difference every day to your students . . . and you make a difference to your colleagues, too. Thank you for that.