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What if all of us wrote a note of thanks to a teacher?

From Jerri Haigler, Vice President of Education, Engagement and Communications with United Way of Central Carolinas.

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and I’ve been reflecting on all of the teachers who made a lasting impression on my life. Actually, I committed to take time to write a note of thanks to let them know that years later they’re still making a difference.

I also thought about all of the teachers who helped shape and mold my son’s life, and as a parent, they certainly rose to the top of my “thank you” list. And then, as a mentor of a middle school student over the past two years, I couldn’t help but think about the teachers who are making this young girl’s life better, richer, and more promising. So, in the end, my thank you list was pretty long.

As a graduate of North Mecklenburg High School, a parent of a proud North Mecklenburg High and North Carolina State University graduate, a child of two CMS career educators, a sister of a Cabarrus County School teacher, and a current CMS volunteer, my roots run deep in education in this community. I say all of that only to make the point that I truly know how hard teachers work, how much they care, and how committed they are to making a difference in children’s lives. I can’t think of any other profession that if done right, requires so much dedication, commitment, and sacrifice – or one that makes such a profound difference. I truly believe it’s a calling. And for those who hear and answer that call, they spend their lives getting to know students and their families and helping them reach their academic and personal potential.

This week, I’ve thought about how teachers are the backbone and provide the foundation for everything we do. They teach us to read, a priceless gift. They teach us about our history and the world around us. They provide us with essential math skills and help us develop critical thinking skills. But the really good teachers that we remember throughout life showed an interest us, helped us believe in ourselves, led us to discover what we were interested in, and took time to let us know that they cared about us.

Those are the teachers I put down on my “thank you” list. Teachers like Mrs. Cantrell, my senior English teacher, who not only introduced me to great literature, but took me to compete in oratorical competitions and stayed after school to prepare. The extra interest she took in me helped lead me to my pursuit of a degree and a career in communications. Teachers like Mrs. Thornton, who took my son under her wing from his freshman year and introduced him to the world of horticulture and leadership in FFA – which led to a degree in agricultural science from N.C. State. And teachers like Mrs. Thomasson, who taught the young lady I mentor in both fourth and fifth grade and provided more love, care, and nurturing on top of the academics than she had ever experienced before.

So sending a thank you note might seem like a small gesture to people who change our lives forever, but it’s a start. In today’s culture, we often hear the negative about public education nationally and locally. But I think we ALL have a story to tell about a teacher who will forever be etched in our minds as the person who made our lives better, richer, and more promising.

So what if we all took a few minutes and wrote a note of thanks to the teachers who helped shape and mold our lives, our children’s lives, and helped make our total community better? It’s really not much to ask – is it?

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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