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Bringing educators together this Teacher Appreciation Week

A YouTube thumbnail for the 2024 Teacher Appreciation Week video, showing a collage of teachers with their students in classrooms.

Read this post in Spanish // Blog en español aquí.

Editor’s Note: For the eighth year, Google for Education has partnered with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to support educators nationwide through the annual National Teacher of the Year Program. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, 2024 National Teacher of the Year Missy Testerman from Tennessee shares an open letter to her fellow educators.

Dear teachers,

I don’t remember much about the first classrooms I was in. I’m sure there were desks and I know there were crayons. But what I do remember are the teachers — Mrs. Rhymer, Miss Guggisburg, Mrs. Stooksbury, and Mrs. Long — and how they made me feel. These teachers nurtured and motivated me to not only learn the content they taught, they gave me a model for who I wanted to be.

My teachers taught me the value of dignity. As teachers, we offer dignity for our students when we “stand in the gap” each day. When we listen to our students and show them a path, or when we notice what they need and remove a barrier to achieve it, we create a “pass through” from where they are to who they can become. This can be sending a bag of food home over a long weekend, helping a family locate a counselor for a teen struggling with depression, or a snack for a student headed to football practice. Most of the time, these little acts of noticing and acting go unseen by most, but to the student whose dignity is restored because of it, respect is established, trust is built, and their potential is brought to life.

A female teacher smiling with 5 young female students in a classroom

Missy in the classroom with her students.

Photo credit: Tennessee State Department of Education

We meet students where they are, no matter the difficult circumstances they face: be it generational poverty, challenges at home, or mental health struggles. We love them through it all. Great teachers know, however, that loving our students is not enough. If we only love and care for our students, we do not help them affect the trajectories of their lives. That only happens when we hold high expectations for all students and celebrate their progress. We must firmly believe that all students are capable of learning and continually move the bar higher as they achieve new heights. Only then do we really help our students create a future for themselves.

Teachers know the future comes from what we do everyday as we build trust with them that allows them to feel comfortable enough to make mistakes without fear. Those mistakes are just as much of the learning process as the connections we make with our students. If our students leave our classrooms without gaining ground in crucial skills, they’re going to continue to struggle moving forward. They will be unprepared for whatever lies ahead. They will be stuck spinning their wheels in a system that depends upon an escalation of progress. Our goal is to set them up for success when we’re not there.

A female teacher supervising her students’ work in the classroom.

“There will always be students who are in need of inspiration and a desire to learn.”

Photo credit: Tennessee State Department of Education

As this year’s National Teacher of the Year, I’ve had the honor to learn from so many teachers from across the country. Cat Walker, who teaches Oceanography and Marine Biology in Alaska, sometimes dons a scuba diving suit during her classes. Joe Nappi, who teaches History in New Jersey, can explain the history behind the most complex geopolitical conflicts in a way that anyone can understand. And, Christy Todd who teaches Music Technology in Georgia, with a passion for inclusivity that reminds me of what is important not just in education, but in life.

While everyone comes from all walks of life, the common thread that brings us together is our love and passion for our students and our calling to meet them where they are, to help create a better future for themselves.

An illustrated image of a large “teacher” frog and 6 smaller “student” frogs sitting on a book.

This year’s Google Doodle honors Teacher Appreciation Week, and shows how teaching is many small actions that come together to nurture our students’ success.

Teaching is often doing the little things, whether it is taking the time to write an encouraging note on a student’s paper or offering support to a frustrated student who simply isn’t even going to attempt a task. It’s listening and watching to make sure that students have what they need to succeed.

During this Teacher Appreciation Week, I know that you are all doing the little things, and sometimes they are actually big, heavy things. Please know that you are seen, and you are appreciated.

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