Commentary

Last week, Jefferson County Public Schools released a report saying its teachers were paid higher than those in comparable school systems. JCPS is expected to recommend a pay freeze for all employees earning $14 an hour and above.

The author teaches ninth grade at Iroquois High School.

When people ask me how many kids I have, I say three. But the truth is, I have 100 or so.

If I miss a day of school, I am bombarded by teenagers asking me where I was the day before … how could I leave them …. thank God I’m back. I am a constant in their lives — for some, the only constant. To them, I am comfort. I am consistency. I am safety.

And that’s really only the beginning.

I am an encourager, motivator, manager of conflicts. They don’t usually have their own pencils, so I bring pencils from home. When lunch seems too far away and they didn’t eat breakfast, I give away my last granola bar. I break up fights. I give second, third and fourth chances.

I call them on their nonsense and try to teach them how important it is to have integrity in this world. I am the person who believes in them, whether or not they believe in themselves. Their trust is not easily given, so I have to work extra hard to earn it. Because when they trust me – when they realize I want what is best for them – then I can teach them.

I spend countless hours every week finalizing lesson plans, producing materials, grading assessments and executing interventions. I continually ask myself: What more can I do to ensure the success of each student?

Because each student’s success – academic and otherwise – is monumentally important to me.  I collaborate with fellow educators in order to be a better teacher – the teacher each of my students deserves. And when my students don’t care about their own success – and sometimes they don’t – I care for them.

I do not do this for the money. But I am proud to work for a school district that offers competitive salaries. Because the most cutting-edge technology, best-written textbooks and most capable administrators are irrelevant without caring and skilled teachers to connect our students to learning.

We must continue to communicate that teaching is a valued profession. Because teachers are priceless.

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