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Celebrating Our Educators

With the first week in May we are enjoying warm weather at last, and we look forward to celebrating Teacher and Staff Appreciation, creating our own good weather marked by recognition, generous feasts, and much goodwill from our PTA and PTSA and all members of our school community. The celebrations are welcome and appreciated; we know that educators play a critical role, not only in nurturing the well-being of all who participate in the Putnam Valley schools and community, but also in advancing the sustainability of our precious American democracy. All PVCSD staff members are teachers within or outside of classrooms, leading schools and classes or supporting the organization through their work in the maintaining of facilities, securing the hallways and cafeterias and driving the school buses. Every interaction is a lesson learned, part of the curriculum, intended or not.

Through their interactions with students, our teachers communicate the cultural and historical institutions and artifacts that weave together our uniquely American ideas and ideals. As they expose students to literature, the arts, history, science, and mathematical analysis of data and by encouraging curiosity and inquiry, teachers help us understand where we have been as a nation, the uncomfortable truths and valiant moments of our history and the remarkable vision and dream that America has represented since its inception. We want our students to have the tools they need to take their place and find their voice in the world they will inherit.  When there are disagreements and disturbances, there is an opportunity to learn how and why others perceive their experiences, how to solve problems peacefully and with the application of reason, justice, and compassion. Schools teach much more than academics; they teach respect for human dignity.

Public schools were created by our nation’s founders because, notwithstanding their different views of how to achieve success, they were certain about one thing: an educated citizenry would be the critical factor in what America would become.  That is why historically around the world, schools have often become the targets of totalitarian and terrorist regimes and teachers have become vulnerable as bearers of the spirit of the social contract.

We are grateful for our exceptional teaching staff whose expressions of our common belief systems are creatively displayed in our hallways and our classroom walls, the products of student learning and understanding. At the middle school, students tell us who they are and want to be in their essays and provide identifying characteristics: responsible, kind, brave, risk-taker, intelligent, creative, respectful; at the elementary school, the “great expectations” of the character education program greet visitors and  symbols and descriptions of peace line the corridors; at the high school student art-work, the accomplishments of students who want to “make a difference,” and the display of flags of all nations send a similar message about how we support all students in appreciating diversity and inclusive practices.

That is what teachers do; they help our students discover their best selves, identify their strengths, overcome barriers, build positive relationships, and explore their interests and passions on their way to adulthood. The words of Christa McAuliffe continue to resonate: “I touch the future; I teach.”

Every educator in our schools accepts this responsibility for encouraging students to find the guide-posts for their future. We focus on their character and emotional growth as well as academic goals. We find the time to share joyful moments and pride in accomplishment, and see our students as individuals, with struggles and growing pains.

With the ubiquity of the cell-phone, it has become harder to find our students’ eyes, but we seek to call them by name as individuals worthy of notice and find the connection. Teachers do this work of making connections, and that is why we salute them and all of our support staff as well. Each student needs an ally, that someone to trust, to forge a link, to make each day part of a chain of meaning and life-long resilience. Horace Mann, the iconic champion of public education, was succinct in extolling the value of educators and their profession: “Finally, education alone can conduct us to that enjoyment which is, at once, best in quality and infinite in quantity.”

With gratitude,

Dr. Frances Wills
Superintendent of Schools