Appreciating Albemarle’s Great Teachers: Teacher Appreciation Week 2010

We celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, May 3-7, 2010 in Albemarle County Public Schools. It is with gratitude that I thank our teachers who bring to our schools dedication, commitment, and care for young people so that each may learn. There has been no time in our nation’s educational history that has been any more challenging to work as a teacher than today. Our teachers educate all young people in what I call our “Statue of Liberty” public schools- learning spaces in which all children who walks through our doors are enrolled with an expectation that they will learn. Thank you Albemarle Teachers!

Our teachers work with children with significant disabilities. They teach young people who do not speak English or who live in significant poverty. It has only been a few decades ago that public schools were not required to even enroll all children or expect them to graduate. Children who lived in poverty were expected to drop out early and go to work, often to help support their families. The number of children who entered the United States and who did not understand English was limited, and of little impact in most schools.  Today, on a daily basis our teachers step up to meet the challenges of working with the most diverse learners ever placed in our classrooms. Despite this, Albemarle’s extraordinary teachers have met this challenge and we now graduate more young people with the highest quality of education ever provided to students leaving our schools. In fact, Albemarle County was one of only fifteen school divisions in Virginia to receive the prestigious Virginia Board of Education Performance Excellence Award in 2010. Thank you, Albemarle Teachers!  

The parent community teachers serve has also changed. We have more single parents and blended families than ever experienced in our schools. We have more families today in which both parents work, making face-to-face communication a more difficult task. At the same time, our teachers are expected to respond during the day, after hours, and on weekends to significant numbers of emails and voicemail messages from parents-the result of relatively new technologies that have added hours to teachers’ workdays. Parents also want to be involved in their child’s education to a far greater degree than ever before in the history of education and they expect the very best from our teachers. To our teachers’ credit, in the most recent Albemarle County government poll of citizens, 92% of our parents indicated they are satisfied or very satisfied with their child’s education. Thank you Albemarle Teachers!   

Learning expectations also have increased dramatically over the last ten years. The prescribed Virginia Standards of Learning were implemented in 1998 and many said our schools will never meet the minimal standard that 70% of our students be proficient on the rigorous state tests used to assess the performance of each student, each school, and each school division. Not only has Albemarle County surpassed these minimal standards but today more than 90% of our students are proficient in all content areas. Thank you Albemarle Teachers!  

As I walk the hallways of schools and visit classrooms or attend performing arts programs, ball games, academic competitions, and visual arts exhibitions, I see the performance portfolio that represents the work of not just our learners, but also the work of our teachers. It is an impressive portfolio of accomplishments that benchmarked against regional, state and national standards places Albemarle County in the company of the best districts we can find. By any standard, our young people perform with top tier peers. This does not happen by chance. Thank you Albemarle Teachers!

Many community members today do not have children in our schools, but many once did. Yesterday’s Albemarle graduates run our local businesses, fill positions of great responsibility at the University of Virginia and in other local nonprofits, serve as elected officials, act as volunteers who give back to this community, and, yes, also teach in our schools.  Our realtors know and appreciate the value of great schools to their slice of Albemarle’s economy. The University of Virginia, public sector agencies, and private sector companies who routinely recruit employees to the area understand the importance of our great school division to their recruitment efforts. In fact, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Chamber of Commerce just recently communicated to our Board of Supervisors that a strong economic vitality plan first begins with support for a strong educational program.  Our teachers do their part, day and out, to make our community a place with a quality of life that caused Forbes magazine to recently rank Albemarle County in their top ten places in America to raise a family. Thank you Albemarle teachers!

I am privileged as superintendent to work with as great a cadre of teachers as one can find anywhere in this nation. Our teachers are dedicated to giving their personal best to the young people they serve. They do so in spite of not receiving a raise in the current year and also not again going into next year. They do so while educating more young people today in our schools than ever with smaller school budgets than they had just two years ago.  They knew when they came into this profession that the challenges would be significant compared to choosing many other professions that pay more and demand less from their employees. Thank you Albemarle teachers!

We should all appreciate our teachers every day of every week because they educate America’s citizens, past, present, and future. Teachers are responsible for democracy continuing to thrive now over hundreds of years in our community, state and nation. Our teachers know that they are not just employees, they are teachers, the most significant profession in this nation. I am proud to call Albemarle’s teachers my colleagues. Our community is honored by their work with our learners.

Thank you Albemarle teachers for a job well done!