August 22, 2013

Teachers: More Powerful than POTUS

President Obama came to Syracuse today.

He traveled in 'Ground Force One', as the locals were calling his bus, with a huge entourage which snarled traffic for a while on the interstates and nearby roads from Buffalo this morning, through Rochester at lunch time, Seneca Falls in the late afternoon, and finally in Syracuse towards the end of rush hour.

At one of our local high schools (where the graduation rate hovers around 50%) Obama spoke of the value of education, how it helps make a difference, helps people be successful, helps them realize their dreams.  He talked about making it more affordable for people to get a college education, making it easier for people to pay for college, and how he and Michelle struggled to pay off their loans from college and law school.  He talked about making colleges more accountable for the success of their students, and about making it easier for people to assess colleges, to take some of the guesswork out of whether the college you think you want to go to is really going to do right by you.

I think the only point of his remarks where he referenced teachers was this comment regarding debt:
And I don't want debt to keep young people - some of whom are here today - from going into professions like teaching, for example, that may not pay as much money, but are of huge value to the country.
I'm likely biased since both of my parents were teachers, but I couldn't agree with the President more, that teachers are a huge value to the country. Their value comes from opening the eyes and minds of kids to the world of endless possibilities that await them.

When my parents retired from teaching they had almost 50 years of experience between them. Mom got you in elementary school - mostly first and second grade -- and many of her students went on to have my Dad in high school.  On the flip side, Mom taught the children of Dad's students - a full circle for students in my small hometown.  I'll never forget the comments at their retirement dinner - former students and their colleagues - telling everyone what a difference my parents had made, because they were teachers. Darn good teachers.

Last month, my mom heard from a former student out of the blue. The woman had looked Mom up on line, gotten hold of her email address, and reached out.  Mom, a very young 83, was amazed to hear from someone who remembered her as a teacher after all these years.  And I'm talking sixty years here -- the woman was in Mom's very first kindergarten class, in 1953!

Tomorrow, the former student and two others from that same class are coming into town to take Mom to lunch.

Now, I know that people who were in the gym at Henninger tonight will always remember being there, maybe shaking the President's hand, or being close enough to get a good picture.

But I hope that the kids who were there have at least one really good teacher at some point, one they'll want to look up and have lunch with sixty years down the road. 

That's power, folks.

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