For National Thank a Teacher Day 2020, Director of the Teaching Awards Trust Mary Palmer sets out why it is so important to celebrate the teaching profession.
As I and thousands of parents sit down each morning to get our young ones to engage in yet another day of homeschooling during the coronavirus lockdown, never before have we been so appreciative and in awe of the role teachers – and the whole school environment – plays in our children’s lives. Meanwhile, teachers and school staff are still out there on the front line, looking after our vulnerable children in the classroom, enabling key workers to get to their jobs, whilst also tirelessly preparing lesson plans and engaging remotely with those in lockdown at home – coming up with ever more inventive ways to engage, inspire and enthral. As our Patron Michael Morpurgo put it “Teachers are the quiet heroes. We should honour them, for they have in their care the next generation, our whole future”.
At the Teaching Awards Trust, our mission is to celebrate and recognise excellence in education, to raise the profile of the teaching profession and to highlight the huge impact teachers and school leaders have in our society – with pupils, parents and the wider community. We want to show teachers how much they are valued, and we do this through the annual Pearson National Teaching Awards and the Thank a Teacher Campaign.
On Wednesday 20th May we will be celebrating our annual Thank a Teacher Day. Our Thank a Teacher campaign is nearly 10 years old, launched back in 2011 by the grime artist Tinchy Stryder in a South London primary school. The idea behind the campaign was, and remains to this day, to enable parents, pupils and colleagues to publicly acknowledge the inspirational acts of kindness, support and everyday life-changing teaching they are lucky enough to receive.
These Thank yous work as a stand-alone public recognition for a teacher, but they also help us, as organisers of the ‘Oscars of the education world’ – The Pearson National Teaching Awards – to identify outstanding teachers and school support staff, and follow up with the school directly to encourage their head to put them forward into the awards – should they choose.
As Director of the Teaching Awards Trust, I have the privilege of hearing first-hand about the fabulous work that takes place in our schools on a daily basis throughout the country. I get to meet amazing, award-winning teachers, who are recognised by our Pearson National Teaching Awards every year, and read the thousands of messages sent through our Thank a Teacher campaign. I am continually moved by the enormous impact so many teachers have on pupils, parents and colleagues, and struck by how they are always so humble and so modest about their achievements.
Teaching as a profession is pivotal to the success of our society. And when you get an amazing teacher – it can be life-changing, as so many high achievers regularly attest.
“There was a math teacher, Fred Wright, who asked me to push a little bit harder. And Ann Stephens taught English and also drama—and I got to be the star of the play. There’s no way there’d be a Microsoft without them doing what they did.” Bill Gates, Microsoft founder.
“He always told me to keep going, work harder. He said nothing comes easy, but that hard work is always rewarded. It was great to have this instilled at an early age and I’ve tried to live by it ever since. Now when I talk to children, I tell them the same message: that you always reap what you sow. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but I gradually came to understand and appreciate it.” Ian Wright, ex-England footballer on his former teacher, Mr Pidgen.
“My journey to this place, right here, right now, began with a great teacher, Alice Welding. She revealed to me the power of literature, and she recognised my need to live in that world of imagination and world of poetry. She alone was the person who encouraged me to become an actor”. Helen Mirren, Oscar-winning actress.
In the run-up to our annual Thank a Teacher Day we are receiving hundreds of messages EVERY DAY from students, parents and colleagues saying thank you for the support they are receiving in such challenging circumstances.
On 20th May we are asking you all to add your message of thanks too, simply go to www.thankateacher.co.uk and send them a personal message and we will get that sent out to them directly for free, or go to @uk_ThankaTeacher and post your message of thanks there.
So from me, Thank you from the bottom of my heart, as a parent, as Director of the Teaching Awards, and as someone who has – like the rest of us – had a stark reminder of our vulnerability and how important teachers are in the cogs that keep our society turning. Teachers, we salute you!