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Teacher of the Year Blog
Teacher of the Year Blog

The Hero Within

I am a hero.  It has truly taken me nearly twenty one years in my teaching career to feel comfortable enough to make this statement with confidence and conviction; not because I do not believe that it is true or that it is a statement too grand to apply to someone within the teaching profession, but rather because I have believed that it would be arrogant or self-serving to actually say it out loud.  I have always been extremely proud of the education that I provide for my students; the innovative lessons that I plan, the curricular connections that I make and the opportunities for self-discovery that I provide.  But these are not what makes me a hero. I do love literature and challenging my students to think deeply in inventive ways.  But that is my content.  My students and their stories are my passion.    That doesn’t make me conceited; it makes me proud of my profession and how I represent it.   I am a hero because of Ryan*, who trusted me enough to come to my classroom door with tears in his eyes to tell me that his girlfriend was pregnant.  He came to me seeking clarity while his 250-pound body shook as he cried on my shoulder about how instantly limited his options had become right before his eyes.    I am a hero because of Josh*, whose sister’s heroin addiction had affected his entire family structure and made his priority for his academic success suffer; who believed in me enough to share his story in the hope that I would recognize the signs of struggle and reach out to future students with similar issues.  Heroism came to me through Michelle*, who appeared to have mastered the art of being a model student:  academically, athletically, and socially;  all in a beautifully wrapped package that crumbled the day she confided in me by rolling up her sleeves and showing me the scars that helped her control and manage her pain the only way she knew how.  In Jacob* I found my heroism when I noticed him slipping into the abyss of his family’s legacy of pain and addiction and simply reached out to let him know that I truly saw all parts of him when all that he could see within was a reflection of himself slipping away.  I don’t share these stories to defend my title of hero; I share them to expose the absolute magic of my beautiful profession.  I am so much more than a teacher to my students.  I am a counselor, an adopted parent, a confidant, and a trusted resource.  My students have chosen me to be those things for them.  Sharing these stories of my heroism doesn’t make me arrogant or cocky; it reminds me of this gift that humbles me and absolutely takes my breath away with the power of its awesomeness and responsibility.
            I consider it part of my mission as Teacher of the Year to help teachers find the heroes within themselves and celebrate their examples of heroism with the public.  They need to revel in the confidence that is created by how they touch the lives of their students each and every day.  Teachers who feel appreciated, nourished, and like members of a supported team transfer those feelings of acceptance and cooperative spirit to the students that they impact within their classrooms.  The pride in their vocations and in their hard work can only be a positive force to be emulated by the students that they mold and shape through their example.
I remember those who have made me a hero and hold on to them.   I remember my reason for choosing this profession and hold on to it, as well.    Most importantly, I hope that I am inspiring others who haven’t found their voice to do so just yet and to help those who have forgotten to uncover it for fear of appearing conceited or egotistical.  I will tirelessly be a champion for the advocacy that we need to make sure our communities remember the importance of teachers and the need to sustain and value them as the heroes that they are.  Because a community that values teachers, and teachers who value themselves will directly impact the burgeoning heroes that exist within the futures of our students.