R. Clifford Jones

Without a doubt, the unsung heroes of the field of education are teachers, the men and women who untiringly extend themselves and expend their energies to shape, guide, and prepare their students for a fruitful life. More importantly, teachers do what they do for a fraction of the pay that others command for work that often pales in comparison and significance. If ever a group of people need to be shown appreciation for what they do and who they are, it’s our teachers.

May 8-12 is Teacher Appreciation Week and this year the theme of the week is “Teachers Deliver,” an apt reminder of the critical role that teachers play in our lives. It has been noted that teaching is the profession that produces all other professions, making teaching, in a sense, the mother of all professions.

Yet what do teachers deliver? For starters, teachers deliver knowledge and learning. They set children on a path that leads to nobility and wisdom, aspiring to do so in ways that will engender a lifelong appreciation for learning. In a world of instability if not chaos, teachers seek to provide balance and certainty, knowing that the pursuit of beauty and truth is a hallmark of true education.

Teachers are also dispensers of hope and optimism. Indeed, Colleen Wilcox avers that “teaching is the greatest act of optimism.” Ever resilient and irrepressible, teachers are dispensers of hope who by word and action instill in their students that education can and will change the social order and fuel their attempts to make the world a better place. Teachers inspire their students to believe that the best is yet to come, that to be ever learning is to be ever rising, and that education makes for progress and uplift.

Innovation and creativity are among the outcomes delivered by teachers. Good teachers foster in their students the ability to think; they know that pointing their students in a particular direction is fundamentally more important than telling or mandating what their students should see. Adventist pioneer Ellen G. White writes, “It is the work of true education . . . to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thoughts” (Education, p. 17). As important as it may be to direct students to what others have thought and written, it is more important to point them to sources of truth. Blazing new trails and discovering new vistas of knowledge that challenge and stretch the thinking of students are aims of true education.

Teachers also deliver mentorship, a truth that cannot be overemphasized. Over and over, studies have demonstrated that the relationship that a student has with a teacher is the single most critical factor in the academic success of the student. It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Tell me, I forget; teach me, I remember; involve me, I learn.” Teachers who go beyond classroom instruction, who engage and involve their students, and who establish and maintain personal, healthy relationships with them show that they understand the aim of education.

Finally, teachers deliver Christ, “the Teacher sent from God,” in whom “all true educational work finds its center” (Education, p. 73, 83).   As a teacher, Jesus taught with such authority that the people were astonished and exclaimed, “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). Christ was the light of heaven whose life and ministry was a model of what teachers in Adventist schools should look like and be like—people of humility whose philosophy of education sees in every child infinite possibilities waiting to be harnessed and developed.

During Teacher Appreciation Week we wish to express deepest appreciation not only to our teachers, but to all our educators, including School Board members. Additionally, we wish to thank those who support our teachers as aides, office and business managers, custodians, etc. Each one plays a vital role in the delivery of quality Adventist education that seeks to prepare students for service in this world and life in the world to come. And deepest gratitude is extended also to Renee Humphreys, Superintendent of Education of the Lake Region Conference, and Latita Thomas, her Administrative Assistant, for their commitment and good work on behalf of Adventist Education.

R. Clifford Jones