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Keith Jacobus Viewpoint: The secret of success — great teachers

As we quickly move toward the completion of another school year and we prepare to say goodbye to our graduating class, I have been thinking about the journey we all have taken in our educational careers but also in life. I seem to begin humming the tune and thinking of the words to the Beatles song that states, "I get by with a little help from my friends." We all do more than "get by" with a little help from our friends, mentors and most importantly teachers. We succeed because of their care and help. I cannot express my gratitude to the many teachers and mentors that have helped me grow and improve as an educator. I hope as you read this you think about the people who have helped you the most. I venture to guess at least one of them is a past teacher.

In South Washington County Schools, we have a mission to "ignite a passion for lifelong learning." Our teachers work collaboratively every day to find the spark that will ignite the passion for each of their students. They seek to enhance students' creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving.

William Butler Yeats said, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." This comes from the early 1900s and resonates with our mission statement today, 100 years later. The "fire" is evident across our system thanks to the 1,402 teachers that support learning every day. It is also evident thanks to the dedication of our students and the support of their families.

Earlier this year, Mahershala Ali, who received the best supporting actor Oscar for his performance in "Moonlight," began his acceptance speech by saying, "Wow, I want to thank my teachers, my professors. I had so many wonderful teachers." I was impressed and proud to hear his first words of his acceptance speech were to share his gratitude for his teachers.

I believe each of us can recall at least one teacher over our time spent in schools who has positively impacted our lives. Some may also recall specifically something that was eloquently said to the extent that it becomes memorable and impacting, much like Yeats quoted 100 years ago.

Ali went on to say, "and one thing that [the teachers] consistently told me—Oliver Chandler, Ron Van Lieu, Ken Washington—is that it wasn't about you. It's not about you." This was referencing the ability to become the actor he is today. He added, "It's about these characters. You're in service to these stories, to these characters. I'm so blessed to have had an opportunity." Teaching is not about us as the instructors; it is about the students, it is about helping them forge their path in academics and in life. Great teachers are focused on the success of others. Through the success of students, great teachers derive their satisfaction and personal success. Teaching done well is a "self-less" and profoundly fulfilling profession. Great teachers give the best of themselves to bring out the best in their students.

That same evening others also mentioned teachers, including Justin Paul, who received an Oscar for best original song. He said, "I was educated in public schools where arts and cultures were valued and recognized, and I'm so grateful to all my teachers who taught so much and gave so much to us."

We have the caliber of teachers that these award-winning professionals are recognizing right here in our system. Our teaching staff includes 71 percent having a master's degree and 13 having their doctorate, numbers of which we can be proud. I try to spend a portion of every week in our schools. I enjoy observing the energy and talent of our teachers. They are supporting the work of our strategic plan by building positive relationships and acknowledging the varying needs of their students. Teams of teachers are meeting consistently to learn from one another best practices across the district and to talk about individual students and what is needed to support them.

The first week of May is the national recognition for teachers. High-quality teachers are creating our future through their students. Please join me in thanking a teacher for both your success and the future success of our students.

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