The Real Power of a Teacher

Mrs. Ortman had earned the reputation of being one of the strictest and most imposing teachers in our elementary school.  When I learned that she would be my teacher, I began my fourth year of school with great trepidation.  Fortunately, she became one of my most influential teachers and changed my life.  Her high expectations for me set the tone for my entire educational career and continue to influence me to this day.  Of course, I am not alone in telling my story.  Most of us can point to one or more teachers who had a positive influence on our lives.  According to a survey conducted by the global financial institution ING in conjunction with the National Teacher of the Year Award, 98 percent of adults believe that a good teacher can change the course of a student’s life and 80 percent can identify at least one teacher who had a significant, positive impact in their own lives.  In fact, teachers are second only to immediate family as the  group having the greatest, positive impact on their lives.  Unfortunately, the current hyper focus by our nation’s education reformers on teacher accountability and high stakes testing is sapping the energy from teachers like Mrs. Ortman to make a personal difference in the lives of our school children.  Our teachers today are being overwhelmed by the impact of education reform and, as a result, many are physically exhausted and emotionally spent.  As many Americans know from personal experience, the real power of a teacher is not just to help students score well on high stakes tests.  Just as importantly, or perhaps even more importantly, it is to help shape their character and provide them with the confidence that they can make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others.  At some point, and I think that point is sooner than later, the American people need to send this message to our education policymakers.

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