Do you remember your favorite teacher(s)? Did you find that you enjoyed their subject? As a six year old walking into the grocery store with my mother on a Saturday, we encountered my previous kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Oaks. My mom stopped to tell her hello while I sat stunned by the realization that my former teacher wasn't at school. I thought she lived at school. My mom said to me, tell Mrs. Oaks what you want to be when you grow up. I proudly proclaimed I want to be a teacher, just like you. It was unrehearsed and very real on my part. While I changed my mind hundreds of times before declaring my major in college (after which I changed my major four times), I did become a teacher and eventually a college professor and now am honored to be the president of Doña Ana Community College.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by New Mexico's Secretary of Education, Hanna Skandara. Her message was simple: teachers matter. It was a refreshing message in the context of a society that seems to have grown skeptical and critical of the teaching profession. While her message focused upon K-12 education, I suspect her message has applicability to post secondary education as well. She presented data from the most recent administration of student achievement tests by the categories for the new teacher and school rating system in New Mexico which includes labeling teachers and schools effective, average and ineffective. The results showed that if you have an ineffective teacher in an ineffective school as defined by the rating system, student performance on the achievement test place them in the 3rd percentile. If you have an effective teacher in an ineffective school, student performance on the achievement test place them in the 63rd percentile. Her conclusion was that the teacher matters whether or not they teach in effective, average or ineffective schools.
Take heart teachers, you do indeed matter. At Doña Ana Community College, teachers matter. As I speak with students during my walks through campus, they often tell me about their teachers. They don't share stories with me about the lesson on tig welding or blood draws or MLA documentation. They tell me how their teacher matters. So, take heart - what you do each and every day in the classroom matters to your students. It also matters to me - so thank you for being a teacher!