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Harris Blackwood: Why all of us should thank a teacher
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you know the occupations of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King Jr., once again, thank a teacher.

If you put on a sweater or jacket because you understood the meaning of the day’s temperature, the thanks belongs to a teacher.

I was playing back my school days in my head this week and I can remember the name of every teacher who was tasked with the job of trying to pour a quantity of knowledge into me. Some of it worked.

This is the time of year we honor retired teachers. Anyone who spent 30 years or more in a classroom deserves our thanks. I’m not sure that I could make it more than 30 days.

Some of my teachers are no longer with us, but I occasionally hear from those who are and I enjoy a chance to say thank you for what you did for me and many others.

I married into a family of teachers. My wife and both of her sisters are teachers. Their mother is a retired teacher. Three of her father’s sisters were teachers. She has four first cousins who are teachers. A family reunion is like a meeting of the association of educators.

It’s a tough field now. My attitude toward my teachers ranged from love and respect to outright fear. Today, kids will talk back to teachers in ways I could never imagine. My wife has, on multiple occasions, been called the kind of names you would never say in polite company.

It makes me understand why many of my friends who have reached the age of retirement have left the profession at the first opportunity.

But being a teacher is not without its rewards. There is an incredible satisfaction that comes with seeing a child grasp a concept. Whether it is reading, math or any other subject, seeing someone understand something for the first time is a special moment. Many refer to it as “seeing the lights come on.”

My boss, the governor of this state, is the son of two public school teachers. His mother, Mary, taught first grade for many years. His father, Noah, was a vocational agriculture teacher. His wife, Sandra, had a teaching career in the Hall County schools. She knows the value of reading and has read to students in every school district in Georgia.

I have heard Gov. Nathan Deal say that he spent time, even when he was in Congress, helping Sandra grade papers at night.

My wife is a science teacher. We have spent many evenings going from store to store to find items to be used in object lessons. She uses cream-filled cupcakes to teach about the layers of the earth. She uses Oreo cookies and lets the students bite them into various shapes representing the phases of the moon. We have searched for Popsicle sticks and some special kind of clay for other projects.

For dedicated teachers, the work doesn’t stop when the afternoon bell rings. It is an ongoing project. I love the look on my wife’s face when a former student greets her in public. The exchange often includes a word of thanks.

Today, I want to say a collective thanks to those who have spent a career as teachers. We owe you a debt of gratitude.

I also want to say thanks to those who continue to teach. It is a challenging time in public education and we need to wrap our arms around your shoulder and encourage you in your work. Your reward happens when that light comes on in the eyes of a young person who needs the knowledge you offer to succeed in this world.


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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