Teacher Appreciation Week

Teacher Appreciation Week

I'm lucky enough to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Loudoun Education Foundation. Every year the Foundation hosts the Outstanding Teachers Banquet to honor all the teachers that were nominated for the Washington Post Teacher of the Year award in Loudoun County along with the winner of the Principal of the Year from Loudoun County. This year it was my pleasure to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the event for the second time. This mostly consists of keeping the program moving and announcing the names of all the honorees. It also includes giving a brief speech on why the event is important and why teachers are important. I thought I'd share my speech with all of you. Maybe my words will inspire you to donate to this worthy cause. Or, maybe you will feel bad for me and still give them a few bucks. Here we go:

Hi everybody. My name is Wes Clark. You may or may not know, I have the honor of serving as the President of the Loudoun Education Foundation. This is the second year I’ve gotten to give a speech like this but this is my first while serving as the President of the Foundation. Last year I started off my speech with a joke about how this is the part of the program where you get to pull out your phones to catch up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram while I talk about the importance of this event. However, last year proved that I get emotional talking about teachers so eventually I’ll start holding back tears like a toddler that has fallen and wants to cry but also wants to prove that they don’t need Mommy. So, you may want to have your phones ready for some future blackmail material.

Tonight, I want to tell you a little bit about my wife, Alison (I call her Rizzo). Rizzo is a sixth-grade special education teacher in Fairfax County. Yes, I know it is Fairfax County but try not to hold that against her. I want to say that she works harder than any other person I know, but it isn’t really the case. Does she work harder than doctors? Yes, that is true. Does she work harder than lawyers? Absolutely. Does she work harder than accountants? Being an accountant I can absolutely confirm that is correct. Does she work harder the politicians? Ummmm, I don’t want to get in trouble so I’ll let you decide that one.

Rizzo’s contract hours are from 8:20am to 3:50pm. Yet she gets to work by 7:45 most days and doesn’t get home until 5:30 or 6:00. After spending some time with the family eating dinner and giving our daughter a bath, she is back at work. Papers are spread out all across our couch and her computer is fired up. She is most likely organizing data for her students or preparing goals for an upcoming IEP meeting. This is on top of waking up at 4:30am most days to make sure she can exercise.

This isn’t just a typical day for Rizzo. This is a typical day for all dedicated teachers. The only reason Rizzo isn’t the hardest working person I know is because she is tied with most other public school teachers.

I get see how hard the work is and how much it can take a toll mentally and physically. I’ve seen Rizzo get overwhelmed with the amount of work she is asked to do without the time and resources available to do it. It takes her, and I know all of you here, right up to the breaking point. I know you ask yourselves why you do it? Some nights you go home and think to yourselves that none of your students appreciate what you do. Some nights you go home and think to yourselves that none of what you do matters. Some nights you go home so mentally stretched that all you can do is lay down and cry because there is so much to accomplish and it feels like the kids don’t care.

Well, let me show you why you do what you do? This was a picture drawn by a Kindergartener. It ended up on the cover of Apple Magazine. I know this student well. This student never told a teacher how much they appreciated what they did. This student was wild and got into trouble. I’m pretty sure that this student was probably the one that sent other teachers home at night frustrated and exhausted. Now I’m married to this student who is returning the favor by working those same hard hours that her teachers did to help her accomplish so much.

That is the challenge of being a teacher. It is a rare occasion that you get to truly witness your successes come to fruition. I never told Mrs. Gannon, my fifth-grade teacher, how much she helped me when I was scared and lonely moving to a new school. I never told Mrs. Gisreal how much I appreciated the time she spent helping me write poetry in seventh-grade. I never told Mr. Snyder how empowered I felt when he asked me to help other students with their calculus homework. I hope they know that I value everything they gave to me.

With that in mind, we at the Loudoun Education Foundation and Loudoun County Public Schools hope tonight can bring just a little bit of recognition for all the hard work that you do. Your students appreciate all that you do. They just don’t know it yet. So, we hope you enjoy the evening with some good food, maybe an adult beverage or two, and possibly a fun door prize, because we know you will be back hard at work on Monday. Oh, who are we kidding. You’ll be back hard at work tomorrow.

Thank you and congratulations.

Me with my Teacher of the Year!

Me with my Teacher of the Year!

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