By Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education
In the U.S., this week marks Teacher Appreciation Week and National Teacher Day. Countries around the world have designated similar days to recognize the critical work of educators – from Albania (March 2nd) to Vietnam (November 20th). But while a day (or week) of celebration is certainly in order, these once-a-year occurrences raise an important question: why aren't we thanking and recognizing our educators every day?
After all, it isn't hyperbole to state that society entrusts teachers with our future. Each day, we hand them our most precious and vulnerable citizens, trusting that they will help them to reach their full potential. We ask teachers to do so much, and yet we often tie their hands with too few resources, ever-growing demands and pay that, in many parts of the world – including the U.S. – is among the lowest of any professional group. At the same time, a large number of teachers will be retiring by the end of this decade, leaving thousands of important shoes to fill. With teacher recruitment programs like TEACH, Microsoft works hard to ensure that there is an influx of talented students entering the teaching workforce; these educator recruits will feed into the teaching talent pool to influence and shape the next generation of leaders.
In spite of these challenges, teachers continue to play a key role in shaping the next generation of leaders. I've been fortunate enough to get to know some of the finest and most committed educators in the world. And to honor our hard-working teachers in the U.S., I'd like to introduce you to four incredible educators who attended our recent Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona.
Kelli Etheredge – Mobile, Alabama
This former lawyer has been teaching multiple grade levels for 14 years. Kelly started a 1:1 learning program at her school on a voluntary basis, and is now responsible for helping her colleagues design innovative lessons to support 21st century learning. As a result of her time at Global Forum and the lasting connections she has made, Kelly is working with classrooms in ten countries including Austria, Canada, Cambodia, Columbia, Singapore and Uganda just to name a few, connecting students globally to the importance of service leadership and collaboration.
Patricia Ragan – Canastota, New York
Patricia has also been teaching for 14 years, and her high school business students benefit greatly from her creative approach to providing them with real-world experience. From a program modeled on TV's "The Apprentice," where students are tasked with supporting local charities, to her "Collaborative and Enterprise Opportunity (CEO)" program that bridges the gap between classroom and boardroom, Patricia demonstrates real leadership and a keen understanding of what students need to succeed in today's workplace.
Jamie Ewing – Seattle, Washington
Jamie came to teaching from menswear design, when a desire to do something more meaningful led to him to earn a Master's degree in education. Jamie has been teaching for seven years in a school with a large immigrant population speaking 75 different languages. This year, he connected his 5th grade students with a 5th grade class in Germany, and the two groups collaborated on a video titled "I Matter" that will be shown at a red carpet event at a local community theater.
Doug Bergman – Charleston, South Carolina
This 20-year veteran has taught computer science for the last 15 years. Doug's commitment to teaching the skills we know are vital to organizations' future hiring plans has resulted in a 300 percent increase in his school's computer science class size, including a quadrupling of female students. Doug uses the connections he's made through the Global Forum and other events to learn from teachers who are at the top of their game, and he generously gives back to this special global community.
These U.S.-based teachers and the millions that are part of the Microsoft Educators Network are dedicated not only to their students, but to advancing the teaching profession around the globe. Working with their counterparts in cities, towns and villages on every continent, they represent the best qualities of the profession: commitment, innovation and the ability to triumph over adversity.
While Teacher Appreciation Week gives us an excellent opportunity to recognize the invaluable contributions of educators, it's also a reminder for all of us – wherever we are — to celebrate teachers every day of the year. I hope you'll join me in acknowledging the teachers who have made a real difference in your life, and in supporting those who will make a difference for our children.