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Evolving to Meet Educators Needs: Valuing Teachers

Teacher and child playing with a toy

By Jessica Knaub, Center Director at Catherine Hershey School for Early Learning, Middletown

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, a week of celebration that comes around once a year. While the week of recognition is important, the conversations and actions to acknowledge what teacher appreciation truly looks like must continue.

Educators are united in their love of the things that families and children do to show appreciation, and are the first to say that, while gift cards are useful, a homemade present is just as touching and meaningful. As employers, although notes of gratitude and tokens of appreciation can give people a welcome boost, becoming a truly appreciative employer means much more than that.

What does appreciation look like? Early Childhood Education professionals are clear that they are seeking learning communities which offer talented professionals the opportunity to be the best version of themselves, and to show up for children every single day. They want to be empowered to step into leadership roles and become catalysts for positive change within their classrooms and broader learning communities, while also contributing to the mentorship and growth of future educators.

It’s not just about pay, although competitive salaries and benefits are part of the package. Creating a compassionate work environment and giving teachers a voice also helps build a thriving and supportive learning community: and this all takes time and commitment. Listening to teachers is a hallmark of organizations which constantly strive to improve, and activities such as regular surveys, assessments, and feedback loops are useful ways for employers to ensure that they are meeting staff’s needs and are evolving to meet the new challenges and opportunities within the organization and the community.

It’s also important to look at creative ways to provide professional development opportunities and continuous training. Examples include forging alliances with nearby educational institutions, funding courses, offering paid leave, or facilitating flexible schedules for attending classes. Additionally, it is crucial to recognize the significance of coaching and mentoring opportunities for teachers. These avenues not only offer valuable insights into necessary areas for professional growth but also foster a supportive environment conducive to ongoing learning and skill enhancement.

Increasingly, employers are examining new ways to improve working conditions and staff to child ratios. Last year, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a new report, Apprenticeships: Building a Strong Child Care Workforce Pipeline, which offers helpful background on the federal laws on apprenticeship programs, explains how to start a registered apprenticeship program, and offers an overview of multiple state and local program profiles.

In addition, employers who provide the opportunity for staff to set clear career goals, and to gain the experience and training necessary to meet those goals, are also meeting educators’ needs. Leadership counts, too: school leaders can make a difference by showing that they want to protect teachers’ time to spend on the children, and time to spend on themselves.

Creating a supportive environment that sets up teachers and staff for success at work and in their personal life, is a way of honoring Teacher Appreciation Week all year round. When people feel valued, the children and families who are part of our learning community will benefit, which is the ultimate goal of any teacher.

As I build the team at Catherine Hershey School for Early Learning, Middletown, I look forward to fostering a team and environment that keeps on listening, keeps on learning, and keeps on improving, which I believe is the best Teacher Appreciation gift of all.

Explore Careers at CHS Middletown: chslearn.org/careers

Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning are subsidiaries of Milton Hershey School and will be staffed and operated independently of the Milton Hershey School core model.

Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.