State school chief to teachers: This year was not just a struggle, but an accomplishment

State Superintendent Richard Woods at a school visit. (Photo courtesy of GaDOE)
State Superintendent Richard Woods at a school visit. (Photo courtesy of GaDOE)

He says: Gift of stability, connection, progress and hope to students is no small thing

Here is a letter to Georgia teachers from State School Superintendent Richard Woods to mark Teacher Appreciation Day:

By Richard Woods

Teachers – when I wrote to you last May, I shared that you had exceeded all expectations, reshaping education in the space of a weekend as a global crisis unfolded.

What a joy it is to write to you a year later, knowing you’ve raised the bar yet again.

It has been a strange school year, with masks, distancing, quarantines, and virtual and in-person learning running on parallel tracks. As I’ve traveled to schools throughout the state, I’ve met teachers who had a full roster of in-person students and a second full roster of virtual learners. I’ve seen teachers offering live instruction to a classroom full of students while streaming that instruction to those learning at home. I have watched you harness all of your ingenuity, knowledge, passion, and skill and direct it toward the goal of helping students learn and grow in this unusual environment.

The gift of stability, connection, progress, and hope you’ve given your students this year is no small thing. I know it has been hard. I know you have been asked to create something entirely new. But I hope you’ll see this year not just as a struggle, but as an accomplishment. I am grateful and I am proud of all you have achieved.

Let me also make it clear that I believe we – as a society – owe you more than our words of gratitude. We owe you our tangible support, and our respect for your professional judgment and skill.

That’s why we set aside COVID funding to provide $1,000 retention bonuses for teachers and school staff. That’s why we worked with Gov. Kemp to add the Georgia Teacher of the Year as an adviser to the State Board of Education. It is why, to be candid, I have advocated throughout my time as state superintendent for a move away from over-testing and hyper-accountability – because I trust that you can do your job well, and I believe you’ll have more time to teach children when you’re not weighted down by high-stakes testing requirements.

It is my commitment to you – as state school superintendent and as someone who spent most of my own career in the classroom – that I will always pair words of appreciation with actions to support teachers and elevate teacher voices.

To my fellow Georgians, I call on you to offer that same respect to our educators – not just during Teacher Appreciation Month, but year-round. They are dedicated, hardworking professionals, and they’re doing incredibly difficult work.

Teachers lift our students up every day – let’s lift them up, too.

The Georgia Department of Education is accepting video messages to be shared on its social media accounts throughout Teacher Appreciation Month. Do you have a favorite teacher? Make a 10-second video clip and tell DOE why they’re special to you. Upload the video here.

Here are the video criteria:

Make your video in a well-lit, quiet place

Turn your phone or camera to the horizontal position

No longer than 10 seconds in length

Please, no added music or special effects

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