A Letter from State School Superintendent Richard Woods:
Recently, we asked the ten
finalists for Georgia Teacher of the Year to share a moment when they went
above and beyond to support a student. That was our exact phrasing – “above and
beyond” – and we hadn’t shared the question with the teachers ahead of time.
Still, every single teacher
had a story to share without so much as pausing.
They told stories of
attending baseball games and school plays, of designing lessons with a specific
student in mind, of simply being a caring adult in a child’s life when that,
more than anything, is what they needed.
These are the stories I
remember from my own days as a teacher. And I know the same stories play out in
your classrooms year after year.
Because teaching is primarily
about relationships. It is not primarily about data analysis, or checking the
right boxes, or increasing scores.
That doesn’t mean it’s bad to
leverage technology, assess learning, or use data to better serve students. I
know student achievement is of the utmost importance to you, because students’
lives and futures are of the utmost importance.
But all that must take place
in the context of relationships. And this Teacher Appreciation Month, what I
most want you to know is that every moment you go above and beyond – all the
time and heart and, sometimes, heartbreak you invest in your students’ lives –
is seen and valued. That time is not “less than” because it can’t be presented
at a conference or checked off on an evaluation. It is the core of our
Let me be clear: this focus
on relationships is not code for “doing more with less.” I know that’s what
you’ve often been asked to do – perform more and more tasks with fewer
resources – but as far as I’m concerned, that’s not an acceptable status quo.
Instead, my goal is to
preserve your time to invest in relationships with your students. This was the
goal of the policies I pursued in my first term as State School Superintendent
– including reductions in the number of state-mandated standardized assessment
and dialing back the weight of test scores in teacher evaluations. I promise
you that I’ll continue to push for changes that allow you to forge strong
relationships with your students rather than being waylaid by paperwork or
Teaching is both an art and a
calling. It requires both serious commitment and a passion for the work. Very
often, you are called upon to make sacrifices no one will ever see.
So for all those unsung
moments – the “above and beyond” moments and the priceless relationships you’ve
built – I want to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Happy Teacher
State School Superintendent