Let’s be real. In a lot of ways, this year has been a tough one for teachers and their students. Many public schools across the country remain underfunded and understaffed. Often, students are still working through the learning loss and emotional impact of COVID-19. All while news stories about violence and the divisive political climate light up our screens.
Despite these challenges, teachers show up for their students every day. As a teacher-founded nonprofit and the most trusted classroom project funding site, we at DonorsChoose know just how meaningful that dedication is. We’re all a little bit better because a teacher helped us along the way — but as Teacher Appreciation Week approaches, we wanted to know what helps them keep going, too. That’s why we asked teachers, “What makes you proud to teach?” Here’s just a few of the powerful answers we got back:
“It's like nothing else when a child has worked so hard at something and the lights finally turn on for them. When they feel proud of their own accomplishments and celebrate those of their classmates', I know I'm doing something of value.”
Call them “aha” or “light bulb” moments. We heard from so many teachers that it’s that incredible moment when a student just “gets it” and reaches an understanding about something in their learning that makes them beam with pride as an educator.
“These kids have been through a lot. I teach K-5 special education and have had some of my students since before Covid started. We've been through a lot together and seeing how much they have overcome and how well they are doing fills my heart with joy.“
Without a doubt, the pandemic also came up a lot when we asked about what makes educators proud to teach. The level of challenges still being faced in classrooms due to COVID-19, and the continued resilience of students and teachers alike is more than enough to explain why.
“Seeing my students succeed in any form. From the biggest successes like getting into the middle school they wanted, to the smallest success like finding that missing pencil.”
For a good number of educators, it was all about the small wins and big growing moments like these that made them proud to teach. That’s because DonorsChoose teachers know the little everyday lessons can add up to major achievements when it comes to changing young lives.
“The fact that I can help a student feel more comfortable with learning — to step out and try something new in a safe and nurturing environment. I may not see how it affects the course of their life, but I know for a season, I was able to tend to a child's emotional, physical, and intellectual health.”
Building community in the classroom and providing safe, inclusive environments for their kids was also a major contender from teachers. Teachers understand better than anyone that empowering their students with the tools and classroom space for taking big risks in their learning journeys is essential to great education.
“Having the opportunity to be part of a child's story. I love that my students hunt me down — even 30 years later — to let me know what they are up to!”
Young people will ultimately be the ones deciding the future and that importance was not lost on our educators. Being able to play a key role in a child’s story and the future world they’re growing up in was another big answer from our teachers.
“For me it has been a journey of a lifetime to be a teacher and I made it this far. I am proud of all the teachers who put so much energy in being the best they can be and I include myself in that. I am proud of my students, no exceptions. We meet each other where we are and go forward.”
Many of our teachers also spoke of the immense pride they had in their fellow educators and how honored they were to be a part of a dedicated community of individuals who are doing so much for their students every day, despite constant challenges. We couldn’t agree more.
“Despite being overwhelmed, I ❤️ my job. I ❤️ seeing my gems get excited when they have mastered content. It takes a SPECIAL person to be an educator!”
We wanted to end on the answer that likely won’t come as a surprise to you: Overwhelmingly, DonorsChoose teachers answered that the thing that made them most proud to teach? The kids.
It may have been a tough year in many ways, but these teachers never stopped giving their all to help every student become their best selves. And that’s something to be tremendously proud of.