Thank you to our teachers, nurses, paraprofessionals, support staff, and public service employees

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, National Nurses Week and Public
Service Recognition week, I want to thank the thousands of members who
dedicate their lives to improving the lives of others. One day, or even one
week, is not enough time to express our sincere gratitude for all that you
do on a daily basis for the people you serve, their families and our
communities.

My life has been personally touched by people in these professions. Mrs.
Reichardt was my reading teacher in both third and fourth grades. I
worshipped the ground she walked on, not only because she taught me a love
for reading, but also because she was such a kind person who always had an
encouraging word to say – that support and encouragement is especially life-
shaping for young children.

I remember fondly Donna Hawkins who was not only the school secretary while
I was a young student but also continued in that capacity when I began
working as an educator at Georgetown Jr.-Sr. High School. I brought to this
profession a strong passion to help children and open their eyes to the
wonderfulness of this world. Donna taught me everything I needed to know
about how to navigate the school system so that I would not be overwhelmed
by any bureaucracy associated with my job. She took me under her wing and
made sure that I had the support and advice to be successful in anything
that I attempted to do. And she kept that school running efficiently through
countless different administrative changes. She left this world far sooner
than we were ready to let her go. Fortunately for us, she shared her
knowledge and her goodness of heart with her daughter Christy who continues
to serve the school community in ways that go far beyond her job description
as so many educators and public servants do every day.

On a very personal level, I will always remember the nurses at Cincinnati
Children’s Hospital who made my son Tom as comfortable as possible when he
was undergoing chemotherapy. I’ll never forget when Tom left the hospital
following his last treatment: Nurses who had cared for him through a very
difficult time for our family lined the hallway and sang a celebratory song
as he left the hospital to send him back to the rest of his life on a
positive and happy note. That was such a touching moment that went far
beyond what those nurses were required to do. It came from a place of love
for their work and for the people they serve, just as you put extra time and
effort into being the best you can be for those you serve in your jobs.

I have been blessed to meet hundreds of incredible people across the state
who glow when they talk about the work they do to help others – people such
as Jaye Hayes, a paraprofessional offering additional help to students in
Toledo; Cheryll Harris who helps children and families during difficult
times through her work at Franklin County Children Services; Dar Borradaile
who sparks a love of aircraft maintenance in students at Miami Valley; Pat
Forrai-Gunter, who tends to and cares for her school community as a school
nurse in Cleveland; Bev Lucas, an engaging and passionate high school
teacher in New Lexington; Allan Bobincheck, a bus driver whose
responsibility in Beachwood is to deliver our children to their destinations
safe and sound; Mike Smithback, a professor drawing out students’ passions
at Terra Community College. These people, and countless others like them,
restore my faith in what our future can and should be.

Unfortunately, their voices are too often excluded from conversations where
decisions are made about our work. Worse yet, they are often treated as
second-class citizens, attacked, demeaned, dismissed.

Take, for example, what has happened in Cleveland this past week. Teachers
who dedicated their lives to educating children are being improperly
portrayed as lazy, slovenly employees who do not work toward student
success. This is a political attack. It is unfair and incredibly false. Just
read the newspaper articles. Read the quote from Michelle Pierre-Farid. I
won’t dignify it by actually quoting it in my blog. Let’s just say that it
completely disrespects the thousands of educators who show up on a daily
basis to make sure that the children in Cleveland have opportunities for a
decent future. What the newspaper articles are not telling you is that
teachers in these investment schools in Cleveland are fully invested in
student success. That is why they chose to be assigned to these schools. And
they have ideas that will actually help drive that success – ideas that will
have much greater impact on student outcomes than the administration’s push
for an unnecessary dress code. The best ideas the administration can put into an academic
improvement plan are dress codes and weekly lesson plans, indicating that the
teachers there do not dress professionally and they do not do lesson plans –
false characterizations on both pieces that only feed into the current false
media portrayal of teachers. What benefit is there in painting these false
pictures of teachers? Politically motivated attacks on educators fail to
raise student outcomes. Perpetrating falsehoods decreases public trust in
our schools. It is a disservice to children, their families and our
communities to dismiss the wisdom and expertise of the teachers who daily
give their all.

At Terra Community College, six individuals were recently dismissed with no
indication of having done anything wrong or having failed to meet work
obligations. These are faculty members who serve as content experts on
panels assembled by the Ohio Board of Regents, including one who achieved a
rare accomplishment for a community college by securing a National Science
Foundation grant for a robotics program. Yet these people are dismissed
without any prior warning or explanation.

Teachers in our career tech centers were asked to participate in writing
WebExams for their fields, but when they saw the final product it fails to
reflect their input. Why bother with the pretense of engaging a teacher’s
expertise if the advice is going to be overlooked? That is the ultimate
disrespect.

In spite of all the negativity in the media though, in spite of an
accountability system that was designed to put blame on educators rather
than looking at the deeper root societal problems that need to be solved,
the latest PDK poll shows that 64 percent of the public still has trust and
confidence in the men and women who are teaching in our public schools – a
number much higher than the approval rating of the people who create the
policies that tie the hands of our professionals.

It is time to give some respect to the people who are closest to the work in
our schools, in our hospitals, in our public service system. And not just
lip-service, but the kind of respect that is shown by truly listening to the
people doing the work and using their expertise to make the changes that
make a difference. This is the way, beyond simply having an appreciation week, to show that we truly value and respect the professionals who make our lives so much better.

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