“I’m just a teacher.”

I hear this refrain over and over again from other teachers. Those were even the words running through my own head when I was named 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year last October. Why is that the case? What keeps us from wanting to shout our accomplishments from the rooftops? I have concluded that the answer is actually quite simple. All across the state of Maine and all across the United States, teachers engage daily in hundreds of seemingly ordinary activities that are actually quite extraordinary.

That ordinariness is the point. By engaging with the ordinary in our classrooms every day, we are actually doing something that is, well, extraordinary.

It’s not unusual to hear, “I don’t know how you do it,” when people find out I am a teacher. To me, the everyday challenges of teaching are just ordinary. But to the students and families whose lives have been positively impacted in immeasurable ways by ordinary teachers, educators who meet those everyday challenges are, in fact, extraordinary.

Every teacher knows which of their students come to school hungry. It is ordinary to make sure that they have fuel for learning. That ordinary act of making sure that this basic need is being met becomes extraordinary.

When it’s time for math, a third-grade classroom may have students who range from early learners learning one-to-one correspondence to students who are independently using algebraic thinking to find the area of irregular polygons. That’s just an ordinary day in the third grade. But it’s extraordinary that educators across this state know what to do in this circumstance, and know how to advance learning for every one of their diverse learners. The ordinary engagement in the differentiation of instructional practices is something that is extraordinary.

In fact, every teacher across the state of Maine engages in dozens of ordinary yet impactful actions in school every day. We work hard to know our students and their families, becoming an important part of their lives. That’s extraordinary! We design and plan engaging and creative curriculum, tailoring it to our diverse learners. That is extraordinary! We show our students that they are readers; that they are authors; that they are thinkers; that they are mathematicians; that they are artists; that they are scientists and engineers. That’s extraordinary! Over the course of an ordinary day, we are confidants, we are mediators, we are caregivers, we are role models, we are facilitators. Our students tell us about the mundane and also trust us with their deepest secrets. That’s extraordinary!

As we recognize Teacher Appreciation Week, kicking off tomorrow, let’s celebrate the way that today’s teachers are paying forward the ordinary work of the teachers who have touched their lives, weaving the life lessons they experienced as young learners into everything they do as educators today. My success is a tribute to Mrs. Scheibel, Mrs. Breau, Mrs. Locke, Mrs. Fallon and the many other ordinary teachers who have helped me in so many extraordinary ways.

Teacher Appreciation Week serves as a reminder of the work teachers engage in daily, turning ordinariness into impactful actions. It is a celebration of the dedication, compassion and resilience exhibited by educators who play a pivotal role in shaping the future. It is my honor to acknowledge, appreciate and uplift the efforts of teachers in every Maine community who embody the spirit of Teacher Appreciation Week – this week and every week throughout the year.

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