Monday, May 20, 2013. It started innocently enough, a typical manic Monday. As we all now know, it was to be one of the deadliest days in the history of our proud state. As I watched the news when I arrived home, and watched, and watched some more, unable to tear my eyes away, I was heartbroken as I heard of the students who lost their lives in Plaza Towers Elementary Schools. I was also so relieved to hear that there were some survivors and so proud to see teachers being hailed as unlikely heroes, symbols of hope in the devastation. I, however, was not surprised. I can promise you that those very same teachers were heroes long before they made national news.
I have seen things done by teachers that others would never believe, much less understand. A child in their class is a little (or a lot) behind, so they stay after school, without pay, to make sure that said child reaches their full potential. A child is without a mom, so they become like a surrogate, making sure to spend extra time, give more hugs, and speak more praise. I know teachers who spend hundreds of THEIR OWN dollars on their classes each year to make sure that they have what they need to reach a new group of kids, a generation who is quickly losing intrinsic motivations and one that must utilize technology in ways never before seen in the classroom. I know teachers who spend their coveted "summers off" planning innovative lessons, attending all kinds of workshops, and cheering on past students at various events. I know teachers who buy yearbooks anonymously for the kids in their class that don't have one (at $25 a pop) so that the kiddos don't feel left out. I know teachers that consider it the absolute highest compliment to hear these words when asked what they learned this year: "To treat others the way you want to be treated," because they know that a great teacher does so much more than math and reading. And they do it all without the expectation of recognition.
In college, they don't tell you that someday, you may have to confront a gunman in your school. They don't tell you that someday, you may be the only one holding it together for a classroom full of children in the middle of a tornado. That's how I know these teachers were already heroes. They did not consider their safety, they did not rely on training, they did not reach for a "What If" manual. They did what they had done every other day in their career. They sacrificed for the sake of their kiddos, and they deserve every bit of commendation they will receive, both for the things we know they've done, and the things that we will never know. Because of them, I have never been prouder to call myself a teacher.