I chose to become a teacher over 20 years ago because I saw the potential of teaching to change the lives of individual students as well as our community.
I saw struggling students work every day to overcome challenges and go on to shine. I saw personally the impact that even one caring adult can have on the life of a child and I saw that most often, that person was a teacher.
We have been working on our district strategic plan and clearly communicating why we exist as a district and how we can best serve our students, families and teachers. We have committed to our promise of “Every Student. Every Day.” We know that teachers are the single most important influence on our ability to keep this promise.
We have committed in our strategic plan to doing everything we can to make our district the “No. 1 rural district where teachers want to teach because they are they are valued and developed, are part of a dynamic team, have opportunities for leadership, and are making a difference every day in their students’ ability to reach their potential.” Having a strong teacher can make the difference between a student making at least one year’s progress (and often more than one year’s progress) or potentially falling further behind.
As importantly, teachers are there to support students in overcoming challenges, identifying their unique talents and building the skills and confidence to pursue their dreams.
I have recently begun asking our teachers to share their “why” and their reasons for getting into teaching and why they stay with our district in particular.
Over and over, I hear the same things:
“We have the best kids – they really try hard on their school work, they care about each other and look out for each other.”
“Our diversity is a great strength of our school and our community and I love working with our diverse students and families.”
“Our small town is very welcoming and our district feels like a family.”
“I feel supported by my fellow teachers and the principal and the district.”
“I love this area.”
We are in the process of saying goodbye to some of our teachers who are either retiring or moving on to other, higher-paying opportunities. Overwhelmingly, we hear from our teachers who are leaving for other opportunities that they share our vision, love our kids and our community, but cannot afford to continue to teach here when there are other higher-paying opportunities.
This is especially true with our new teachers who are just beginning their careers in teaching and for the new teachers we are trying to attract.
Unfortunately, we continue to fall behind the state and other districts in our salaries. The district salaries are 11.7% below surrounding districts and states in our region. As a result, this year, we expect to be hiring close to 30 new teachers. That is roughly 20% of our teaching staff.
I know that teachers matter. Teachers matter to our children and to our community. I believe that the single most important thing that we can do as a district and a community is to support our teachers. We are committed to supporting them in every way we can.
We deeply appreciate and honor our teachers who are choosing to teach here and work with our students, including our teachers who are retiring after dedicating their careers to our district. We ask that the community joins us in supporting, honoring and thanking our teachers.
If you see a teacher this summer, please take a moment to share your thanks for all they do for our students and community.
Lori Haukeness is superintendent of Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1. Reach her at email@example.com.