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Reflecting on Our Commitment to Educators During Teacher Appreciation Week

by By Sara A. Sneed, President and CEO, The NEA Foundation

“When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” – Maya Angelou

We all have different versions of the same story. It’s the story of an educator who helped us to understand the world outside of the communities where we grew up, introduced us to a subject that changed the course of our lives, or inspired us to take agency over our own future. It’s the many strands of this story that comprise the luminous tapestry of public education across the country.

During Teacher Appreciation Week, the NEA Foundation joins the chorus of voices celebrating educators’ extraordinary work in helping to shape students’ lives in urban centers, small towns, and rural expanses. From classroom teachers to education support professionals to school administrators, all deserve our support and gratitude, as well as opportunities to hone their craft and bring rich new learning experiences to students.

Like so many, my story and remarkable opportunities have been made possible with the support of educators, both inside and outside of the classroom. To this day, I carry with me lessons learned from my mother, a teacher and school principal who, during the Civil Rights Era, led a persistent struggle for educational equity and opportunity benefiting thousands of students in Mississippi. My whole family has experienced and demonstrated the unquestionable power and importance of both educators and a quality public education. Many, from my classroom to music teachers and so many other educators, also taught me to believe in myself, to dream, and to strive for experiences beyond the familiar contours of my early life.

As we celebrate educators this week, we at the NEA Foundation are reflecting on our mission in supporting teachers year round. For 50 years, the Foundation has placed educators at the forefront of our commitment to support public education. We’ve dispersed millions of dollars in grants for related professional development, leadership recognition, and advances in teaching and learning. Each year, the Foundation supports thousands of educators and reaches hundreds of thousands of students through our many resources, including grants to educators and school districts.

Looking ahead to the next 50 years, I am committed to answering fundamental questions that will help us to create a new roadmap for the Foundation’s future. How can we sharpen our impact, reach more educators in rural and remote communities, and continue to develop and deliver resources that address the core challenges and needs of educators today? How can we be more effective in elevating teachers’ voices? Where are the greatest opportunities to make a sustained and lasting impact on public education? In 2019 and beyond, what more can we do in partnership with others to reaffirm our commitment to keep the promise of public education?

Every journey begins with a first step. My commitment, as Foundation CEO, is to join with others to listen and to learn from all whom the NEA Foundation is here to serve. Over the course of the next few months, my staff and I will be gathering insights from educators, donors, other stakeholders, and both old and hopefully new friends, to inform our work in the years ahead.

With your support, we will work to help create a society that won’t just dedicate a week to recognize teachers’ commitment to their craft and their impact but one committed to ensuring that educators have the resources, community support, and recognition deserved all year long. Until that time, we have dedicated ourselves to creating more impactful and enduring opportunities for educators. Join us in fulfilling the promise of public education by sharing your story on our 50th Anniversary Yearbook and making a gift to sustain our educator-focused programs.

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