During Teacher Appreciation Week, like so many others I reflect on all the great teachers who influenced who I am today. I remember with appreciation Dr. Gerald Ponder, my major professor during my Ph.D. program and lifelong mentor and colleague. I also recall Mr. Gerald Roslowski, my eighth-grade core teacher, who three years later allowed me to co-teach with him for six weeks when I was in a career exploratory program pursuing my passion for teaching. There are so many others too numerous to name who all had an indelible influence on me. I am so grateful.

Today I want to suggest that we go beyond the teacher appreciation luncheons and celebratory banners to give teachers what they want and deserve. What we hear teachers need most includes:

  • Time for collaborative learning and problem solving;
  • Classroom-based support and actionable feedback;
  • Supportive leadership.

What this adds up to — teachers want and deserve the kind of learning conditions that they are expected to create for their students.

During this week of teacher appreciation, I want to stress that all successful leaders are where they are because of the multiple teachers who shaped their learning trajectory. Our teachers are central to our societies, and I’d go further to say that a great teaching force is the foundation for a successful democracy. In the U.S., our teachers ensure that all students understand the fundamentals of sustaining and upholding our amazing nation and are prepared to contribute to it.

Our future depends on our teachers. Investing in the profession should be obvious to achieving our vision for our communities, cities, states, provinces, and nations. Here is my gift in recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week.

I can assure all teachers that Learning Forward assumes a responsibility for and will continue to work toward the following:

  • To elevate and advance Standards for Professional Learning and the role they play in ensuring all teachers have access to only the highest-quality professional learning.
  • To advocate for more resources so teachers have high-quality instructional materials and professional learning that supports their successful implementation.
  • To support states and organizations as they consider how to strengthen career pathway options that attract and retain great individuals into the teaching profession.
  • To call out abuses of professional learning mandates, resources, and programs.
  • To enlist and engage teachers in our own decision-making process regarding our programs, publications, and positions that effect the profession.
  • To partner with organizations that advance the teaching profession to accelerate and amplify our shared priorities.
  • To document and elevate professional learning that works to inform the day-to-day decisions schools and systems make regarding teacher time and professional development.
  • To seek out and amplify the professional learning that builds teacher capacity in culturally proficient practices and strengthens schools’ commitment to equity for all students.

We commit to recognizing and honoring the experience and expertise of great teachers. We hold ourselves accountable to keeping our word.

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Stephanie Hirsh retired in June 2019 after 31 years with Learning Forward, an international association of more than 13,000 educators committed to increasing student achievement through effective professional learning. Hirsh led the organization as its executive director for the last 13 years where she presented, published, and consulted on Learning Forward’s behalf across North America.