The Alabama State Department of Education announced educators across the state will be honored with "Thank Alabama Teachers Week" Monday, Nov. 16, through Saturday, Nov. 21.
Separate from the Teachers Appreciation Week that is normally celebrated in the spring, Thank Alabama Teachers Week sprang from a desire to express thanks for the job being done by teachers amid the challenging circumstances brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
For the special week, individuals and businesses throughout the state are encouraged to express gratitude to the men and women working for students and communities.
“The challenges presented to Alabama teachers this year are unprecedented, and we want them to know how much they are appreciated and how much we see them and all they are doing,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey. “Our teachers are the backbone for so much of what we do. This is a time to stop and pause and say ‘Thank you, teachers’.”
Gov. Kay Ivey, who is a former teacher, issued the following proclamation for statewide recognition:
“Alabama teachers have been thrust into a reality that none of us could have predicted, however they’ve done so with determination, strength and perseverance. The mounted stresses of today’s classroom along with the new world in which we find ourselves are a heavy brunt to bear, yet we see the resilience and tenacity of our educators across the state daily. Their sacrifices are unlimited and their selflessness immeasurable, and for that, we proudly honor them.”
Some gestures the state suggested included businesses, individuals, and influencers offering teacher discounts, posting thanks via organizational and personal social media accounts using #ThankALTeachers, writing teachers thank you letters, gifting teachers with small tokens of appreciation, or donating essential items to local schools.
Greg Faught, superintendent of Enterprise City Schools, said the services teachers provide—this year, especially—have been invaluable.
“I want to thank our teachers and all of our employees for the work they’ve done this year. Teaching children is probably the most difficult job within our school system, and the circumstances surrounding this year have certainly compounded issues for us,” he said. “Our teachers have risen to the challenge and I’m very proud of them.”
The state department also used this as an opportunity to recruit more teachers.
“We’ve had a teacher shortage now going on for a few years, actually. It’s become more acute with time, and so we got together last year,” Mackey said. “The legislature appropriated some money and said go out and talk with some specialists and let’s find a way to recruit people in the teaching profession, both young people 18 years old going into college, and also those second career people.”
He said there’s been a challenge in finding elementary school teachers, along with English and language arts instructors. He added there’s been a 40 percent decline in people getting into teaching in recent years. COVID-19 certainly hasn’t helped.
The Economic Policy Institute reports that, as of September, public K-12 education employment is more than half a million jobs below last year’s numbers and 890,000 below where it would have to be to keep up with growth in student enrollment since 2008. About half of those roles are teachers—others include counselors, teaching assistants, roles in special education, food service and more.
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