We spend a lot of time at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation thinking about the many variables that go into a high-quality education. Specifically, our K-12 work is focused on figuring out, and investing in, those factors that can make the biggest difference for students, no matter their zip code, race, or family income.
It’s a complicated challenge, but one made easier by one of the most unambiguous truths in education: the fact that behind every single student who succeeds in this country is a teacher—and often several –whose selfless dedication, professionalism and passion make that success possible. That’s why we’re so pleased this year—and every year—to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week.
No one in schools works harder than teachers. No one has more insights than teachers do about what makes a classroom tick, or knows more about how to reach and inspire a struggling student to do more. No one has a more unwavering belief in every student and their ability to succeed.
Like many of you, this is something I’ve witnessed, and benefited from, firsthand. My own parents raised my siblings and me to embrace the challenges and opportunities available to us through education. And once I was in the classroom, it was great teachers who reinforced and built on that aspiration to help me connect to what I was learning, and set expectations for what I could achieve in high school and beyond.
That’s one reason parents, particularly those from minority communities where education provides children the single surest course to career opportunity and personal success, are some of teachers’ biggest supporters. A Learning Heroes poll of more than 1300 parents, “Hearts and Minds of Parents in an Uncertain World”, found that 63 percent of parents communicate with their child’s teacher at least once or twice a month. And a recent New Education Majority national poll of parents and families of color showed that African American and Latino parents strongly consider good teachers to be the single most important quality of a great school.
So thanking teachers for their service is important, but it’s not enough—they deserve to have our support as well as our thanks. At the foundation, that support includes investments in ECET2, Innovative Professional Development, and the Literacy Design Collaborative and Math Design Collaborative.
These efforts reflect our belief in teachers work, day after day, in building a bridge to opportunity for every student. And throughout this Teacher Appreciation Week and beyond, we’ll honor teachers who are building this bridge and help their students achieve more. Teachers who support their students both in and out of the classroom; teachers who expose their students to a world beyond their local community; and teachers who inspire their students to reach for the stars—and engineer rockets to get there.
Teachers like these make an enormous difference for the better in students’ lives—and in our own. So join us this week as we honor and thank the great teachers in our lives, and around the world, who guide their students on the path to success.