Teachers shape the future

“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instill a love of learning.”

We are fortunate in Sampson that these words could describe what happens in just about every single classroom across the county, in our two public schools as well as within the walls of our handful of private institutions.

Much the same is true in neighboring Duplin County Schools, where the priority remains firmly focused on student-centered education. Parents there have just as much reason to feel confident in their schools as we do here, knowing that from the administration to the teachers, the bus drivers to the custodians and cafeteria workers, students are afforded every opportunity to excel.

While no system is perfect, we have seen great strides made by the schools that surround us, and we should take great pride in that fact.

And the inspiration, imagination and learning that is sparked begins with the tremendous teachers who lead each class.

There probably is no more difficult job than that of a teacher, particularly in today’s society, where an educator in a classroom often has to deal with myriad issues that students bring with them to school each and every day.

Imagine, if you will, a child living in squalor, with a drug-addicted mom and an absent father, surviving on little food and less rest. Education has probably not been a much-discussed word in his household; respect has likely not been taught. And now he sits in a classroom, probably fidgety, perhaps nodding off, and likely angry at the world.

Then, picture a well-dressed little girl, living in the lap of luxury, her every whim catered to. Mom and dad live together, but fight often, using the little girl as the pawn in an unhappy marriage. Education is a priority and talked about often, with the youngster made to believe she is already smarter than anyone who could ever be in the classroom, perhaps even the teacher. And now she sits in the same class, probably haughty, perhaps fidgety, and likely angry at the world.

In the middle of those two extremes are dozens of other youngsters who come from all walks of life, representing many races, some eager to learn, others not so much.

And the teacher at the front of the classroom must reach them all, lifting them from their current circumstance and educational level and carrying them forward, helping them to achieve success, whether it’s learning to read, excelling at Algebra or teaching them the mechanics of a sentence.

That is the reality of education in the 21st century.

Yet, if you walk down any school hallway in Sampson or Duplin, the first thing you notice is the learning that is taking place; the second thing you’ll likely see is the enthusiastic smiles, the raised hands, the light of understanding.

And that is because of teachers who, despite the obstacles — and, in some cases, the odds — are shaping the character, caliber and future of boys and girls.

Although Tuesday was officially National Teacher Appreciation Day, we contend that every day should be a day when parents and community members show appreciation to educators, not just in Sampson and Duplin, but in every area of our nation.

They deserve our respect, our thanks and our support.

We believe they should be paid more, listened to more by lawmakers as they try to fine-tune the educational system in the state and respected more by all of us.

For no matter how cliche’ it might sound, in many ways, we are who we are because of the teachers who helped to mold our lives.