This week, today through Saturday, is the 90th American Education Week. Sponsored by the National Education Association. The purpose of American Education Week is to "inform the public of the accomplishments and needs of public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs."
As the president of St. Edmond Catholic School and, albeit not of the public education domain, I nevertheless am honored to join my public school colleagues in Fort Dodge and beyond in recognizing the good work of educators, both private and public, who toil daily to provide sound knowledge and pedagogy to our nation's youth.
American education is blessed with both the model of a viable private system of education as it benefits, as well from the public system. While there will be other times to debate the merits and verities of both systems, American Education Week affords us time to pause and reflect on the rich myriad of educational programming and offerings that our children can take advantage of. There is no better time to dwell on both the successes and needs of today's educational milieu than this unique time of thanks, as we anticipate the Thanksgiving holiday and celebrate American Education Week.
The late philosopher and educator, Paul Bergevin, suggests that there are three fundamental purposes of education: to convey knowledge from one source to another, to contribute to a civilizing society and to prepare leaders for both today, as well as tomorrow.
The noble words of Bergevin ring as true today as when they were written several years ago. While the purpose of education has not essentially changed, the atmosphere and environment which education finds itself has certainly been modified in recent years. With calls for more accountability and assessment, education at times, appears to be more of a business than the school setting that many of us nostalgically remember. Hopefully, we will not lose, as many suggest, the best of the past as we encounter a difficult future.
At the center of this changing educational environment is, at all times, the student and the teacher. In this changing environment, it seems that this relationship is often forgotten or, at best, relegated to a lesser reference point of significance in the collective educational conversation. At the heart of the issue is the unique relationship of the role and influence of a teacher and the welfare of the student.
As I recall my early years of education, I cannot help but remember one of the most important people in my life, my third-grade teacher, Florella Jacobson. To this day, I recall Miss Jacobson, who gently but firmly taught me how to read and to enjoy the wonderful world that only literature and the discovery of words can expose you to. Until I arrived at the third grade level, I could not read, or at least as I look back upon it today, assuredly had not commanded the ability to comprehend the meaning of the words that I was seeing in the classroom. Through countless times at the blackboard (one of the few learning aids available in those days) and many one-on-one sessions, Miss Jacobson worked with me on my vocabulary and reading issues. Perhaps of greater significance than her teaching ability was her belief in me and furthermore, the desire to bring out the best in me as a student.
I strongly suspect that I am not the only person that holds a teacher in such high regard. While our memories fade and are at times a bit altered, it is my opinion that the image of a significant teacher burns in each of us with the example of caring, diligence and concern. It is the exemplary gift of Miss Jacobson and her dedication, along with the work of countless teachers that each school day fulfill the words of Bergevin and is the real reason that we all celebrate the 90th American School Week.
Please take the opportunity in the next few days to thank a teacher for what they do, or for what they have done to enrich your life and the life of others. It will be well worth your time and a small recompense for what they have done and continue to accomplish for our society.
Dr. Tim Barry is president of St. Edmond Catholic School.