Mike Couick, President & CEO, The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina
It’s June. School is out for the kids, but not necessarily for their teachers. As the son and husband of former classroom educators, I know that summers are a time for recharging, retooling and recertifying.
We are asking our teachers to do more to help America’s workforce remain competitive. Our children are measured against their peers in Helsinki and Shanghai. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the amount of new technical information is doubling every two years, meaning by the time of graduation from a four year college with a technical degree, half of what graduates have learned will be outdated. The Labor Department also estimates that today’s learner will have 10 to 14 jobs by the age of 38.
Teaching is certainly no longer a nine-month job. Growing up with a mom that taught every grade but 12th, I also understood that teaching was not an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. day job, either. Our kitchen phone would ring nightly as parents “checked in” on their children attending Clover District 2 schools. Parents who worked hard during the day—often in textiles or agriculture —had only their evenings to keep up with their child’s progress (or lack thereof). Mom was, and remains, unflappable. She could deal with a child’s recurring stomachaches on the morning of spelling tests just as easily as dealing with an outbreak of head lice or pre-teen crushes marked by passed “love notes.” Mom thrived as a teacher. To paraphrase Renee Zellweger in the movie Jerry McGuire, teaching “completed her.”
Teach for America is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1990 to recruit, train and place young teachers in urban and rural schools in order to improve educational outcomes for poor students. To date, the organization has placed 33,000 teachers across the nation and changed the lives of more than 3 million children. In South Carolina, Teach for America currently has 30 young men and women working in public schools in Orangeburg, Clarendon, Florence, and Darlington counties. For more information about the program, visit teachforamerica.org or contact S.C. Coordinator Josh Bell.
In the 1990s, the Rock Hill Evening Herald launched a writing contest, asking readers to share the story of their favorite Christmas gift. Mom wrote in with her memories of a fifth-grade boy whom life had not given a fair shake. From a broken home, he would often walk or ride his bike to school after missing the bus when lack of family support kept him from getting to the bus stop on time. School was the one constant positive in his life. One Christmas, he quietly gave Mom a big smile and a nickel wrapped in gold foil. She still has the nickel.
Teachers mold America’s future. In many ways, they are our nation’s hope. They can stretch young minds and hearts. Good teachers can teach a child how to craft a well-written story. Great teachers inspire children to believe that they can craft their own boundless futures.
Am I rambling? Yes. Am I writing about something very personal to me? Absolutely. Why? My eldest daughter graduated from the University of South Carolina in May. Despite no previous indications of having the “teaching gene,” she leaves this month to teach in an inner-city charter school in Dallas, Texas. By all accounts the school is very successful. She goes as part of a cadre of enthusiastic college graduates who have committed to spend at least two years making a difference for our children in America, hence the program’s name, Teach for America. Two of the program’s core values are transformational change and leadership, both qualities our schools will need going forward.
I am very proud of my daughter and the generation of which she is a part. They believe that America is worth an investment of their time, hard work and hearts. To the three teachers in my family—mother, wife and daughter—and to all retired, active and future teachers out there, thank you.