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Thank Goodness for NH Teachers

Headline: Thank goodness for New Hampshire teachers

Byline: Deb Howes, President of AFT-NH and Megan Tuttle, President of NEA-NH

Every student - no matter the color of their skin or the ZIP code they live in - deserves educators who are caring, committed, and have the resources they need to help every student succeed. As our state and nation mark Teacher Appreciation Week, we do so with the joy and determination that teachers bring to their students and classrooms every day. 

New Hampshire schools continually rank some of the best in the country and it is largely due to the dedicated professionals who have chosen to serve our communities by educating the next generation of Granite State students.

When we think about the role teachers play in helping students grow, the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is illustrative. It takes many people to provide the safety and support children need to grow, flourish, and build bright futures - including parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, and teachers. It is a shared responsibility and the partnership between caregivers and educators is critical.

For many New Hampshire cities and towns, schools are the center of the community. Schools are where we go to vote and hold annual town meetings, where community and sporting events are held, and where we form close relationships with the families of our children’s peers.

The heart of our schools are our teachers.

What makes Granite State teachers so special is their commitment to the success of every student. Student needs are at the center of everything teachers do, inside and outside of the classroom.

New Hampshire is in the midst of a mental health crisis; while the causes are complex and varied, we know this crisis is hitting our children the hardest. The teachers at Timberlane Regional High School recognized this issue and took action. Outside of their work hours, and for no extra pay, two teachers organized a Mental Health Awareness Week. Students and parents were invited to attend a series of events together that sought to overcome the stigma that often accompanies mental health issues. These teachers, and all of our teachers, recognize that schools operate best when students are supported by parents and teachers.

Teachers recognize the importance of supporting students inside and outside of the classroom.  Teachers see the needs of the children they work with every day. For nearly 30 years, the Scott McGilvray Children’s Foundation has helped to meet some of those needs, from clothes, medical care, or foods. Teachers across the state can tap into these resources to help the students they work with every day.

While we highlight these particular cases of our teachers going above and beyond, the truth is we could share thousands of examples from all across the state. Teachers who work to build classrooms that accommodate many different student learning needs and styles - from fidgets to seating options. Teachers who know hungry students can’t learn and are prepared with extra snacks. Teachers who spend countless hours at night communicating with parents and students, or who stay after school to work with students who need a little more support. Teachers who take time away from their own families to chaperone dances and field trips. Teachers who become coaches, advisors and Chorus and Theatre directors after school hours so that students have access to these important opportunities.

The truth of this work is that none of it is required but all of it is essential. And our teachers do it all without fanfare. They don’t write opinion pieces declaring themselves heroes. They do the work every day because they love watching students grow and learn.

Unfortunately, it is becoming harder for New Hampshire to recruit and retain these dedicated professionals. Decades of some leaders’ failure to provide adequate public school funding and teacher pay and the recent flood of politically motivated attacks on teachers and public schools are bearing consequences. Recently released data shows that the average starting teacher salary in New Hampshire is just $41,590 - 34th in the nation - and the average teacher salary falls more than $10,000 short of the minimum living wage in our state. 

During this Teacher Appreciation Week - and every week - educators need to know we support them and value them. And our leaders need to hear our demand that they improve our teachers’ working conditions and our student's learning conditions.

For all they do for students, families, and our communities, New Hampshire educators deserve to feel our fierce support, respect, and admiration throughout the year so they can give their best to their students. Thank goodness they have devoted their lives to this ever important profession and are helping to look after the children of the Granite State.

Deb Howes lives in Hudson and is the president of AFT-NH. Megan Tuttle lives in Concord and is the president of NEA-New Hampshire.

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