COLUMN: More than just a week

By NATHAN HOWELL / Staff Writer

Teachers have the unique responsibility of providing education and shaping the outlook on life of children during their most formative years. This often goes overlooked by way of inadequate pay, or the undervaluing of the important service that they provide for the children.

The first week of May is set aside each year as Teacher Appreciation Week to try and make an effort toward acknowledging the hard work and sacrifice that educators go through to create a more educated and prepared generation of students.

While this is often a ceremonial gesture filled with cute activities and prizes for teachers with outstanding performance, most are left by the wayside when it comes to ensuring that our educators are properly compensated. However, this year there does seem to be a concerted effort to actually make some advances on this issue.

Just this past week Gov. Kay Ivey said that she would sign a bill approved by the Alabama Legislature that would give all K-12 public school teachers, administrators and staff members, in addition to community college staff, a two percent pay raise.

This is just a step in the right direction, as teachers have had to adapt and learn new skills quickly to deal with the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the last year many teachers who had never even thought of giving virtual lessons had to quickly change their entire teaching methods just to ensure that their students received and education. They have had to fight for funding, or come out of pocket, to make sure that they had the proper supplies for their students that came for in-person classes.

With this in mind, I was pleased to see the city of Helena create the Tag Team Grant which asked the teachers directly what they needed and funded their requests up to a certain amount.

On Monday, April 26, the city presented $60,000 in grants to educators at each of the city’s schools. The teachers submitted applications for things like adaptable seating, technology, website subscriptions and classroom improvements and were awarded a certain amount of money to make these things happen.

Not everyone has a great educational experience, but I know that personally I would not have made it to where I am in life without the support of several dedicated teachers along the way.  While I believe that they deserve so much more than this, I think things like these are important steps in the right direction. I hope that they will serve as a reminder that we should appreciate our teachers more than one week out of the year.