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So many educators give of themselves to help students become successful members of society--let's recognize them for the heroes they are.

You’re my hero

So many educators give of themselves to help students become successful members of society--let's recognize them for the heroes they are

Key points:

I’ve always hated being put on the spot to answer some version of this question: “Who is your role model?  Who inspired your career?  Who is your hero?”

In my first act in life, as a television reporter, I had the opportunity to cross paths with celebrities, public figures, and just generally “important” people over the years.  And nearly every time, I was disappointed with by the experience because either the person was not as dynamic as their persona or, in some cases, was simply rude. I have a great relationship with my parents and credit them for many, many aspects of my life; one thing they taught me was hero status is a high bar because we’re all fallible humans.

So rather than credit one person, I believe there are nuggets of inspiration and heroes in everyone. My dad sacrificed promotions during his career because he wanted to be present at my after-school sporting events. My mom had such an impact on the high school students she taught that she has maintained relationships with many for most of their lives. My sister and I put our differences aside, and she trusted my husband and me to raise her son when she had to focus on her husband, who was critically injured in Afghanistan. My husband left a very successful career as a television reporter to move to Illinois to get married, and he reinvented himself in a second act in life, publishing equity research and trading stocks.  My childhood friend survived the breast cancer she was diagnosed with when her third baby was only six months old, and while recovering, cared for her husband who was diagnosed with Lyme disease during the pandemic. 

There’s a bit of hero in all of us. 

Especially these educators.

Utah Teacher of the Year and 2023 eSchool News K-12 Hero, John Arthur, has gained national recognition for giving his students a voice through video production. About being named a Hero, Arthur said, “I honestly couldn’t believe it when I heard that I was being recognized as a K-12 Hero! The work I do with my students — coaching them as they use technology to create digital content as advocates for their communities and kids like them — feels so small compared to the work being done by others at the district and state level in this space. I am one teacher at one school, working with 25 kids at a time. The fact that I am being recognized in this way is a testament of how brilliant my students’ voices are — all student voices are — and how deeply their work has resonated with big-hearted adults everywhere!”

Arthur continues, “Like most teachers, I go above and beyond for my students because I love them. It’s that same love that drove teachers to go door to door throughout the pandemic, making sure our kids had what they needed and knew they weren’t alone.”

Arthur may have won the official hero title, but there’s certainly more than a bit of hero in his fellow finalists. Like Sean Bevier…

A finalist for eSchool News K-12 Hero, he started a traditional career in education as a teacher and then administrator.  But his yearning to help those who are underserved and under-resourced resulted in a new position as Juvenile Probation Officer at the Elkhart County Juvenile Detention Center in Indiana, only to be promoted to Educational Specialist five months later. Upon arrival at the Center, he single-handedly created a school library, and he now oversees the academic needs of two classrooms and has witnessed first-hand the magic of literacy.

Bevier says, “Many of our students say our Center is where they read their first-ever book!” Bevier’s students often have stories of hurt and trauma, which ultimately led to their poor choices. He recalls one student angry at his father when he arrived but noticed the relationship mending through their phone conversations. The topic of reading came up between the two and the student shared that he read a book, to which the father expressed his joy. “That ignited this young man,” Bevier says. “Although it was difficult for him to read, he checked out another book, then another. At one point, he was looking for his next book and he told me, ‘My dad said he read Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet when he was in school and liked it. Do we have that?’”

Another eSchool News K-12 Hero finalist, teacher librarian Michelle Kruse in the Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD), transformed the district’s 32 library collections. The collections were 15-20 years old and didn’t reflect the diversity of the students in the community. By advocating at a district level for a more modern collection, the district allocated $1.5 million in ESSER Funds to complete a three-year collection redevelopment project.  Kruse explains, “It is important and powerful work to access the data that you have available in your library database about your collection, and the information you have about your budget, to advocate for additional resources if that is what is needed in your library, for your students. Convincing arguments are made with concrete data that is paired with personal stories about specific student needs. Sometimes this work takes time and patience, and the need to reach out until you’ve found the right administrator to listen to your story. Once you begin telling your story and are met with some success it’s important to follow up and continue sharing your data and your success stories.”

Kruse doesn’t see herself as a hero and states, “It feels humbling to be called a ‘hero’ for doing this work, as I don’t feel like it is work that we normally associate with heroism. In an appreciative nod to the people who do work every day to protect us, secure our safety, and save our lives, I am honored to have people realize that there is a need to do work to help young people see themselves in the books that they read and to see others as well. Providing students access to books is something I am very passionate about and have spent time advocating for in my community.”

Yet, all too often the challenges teachers face in the classroom distract from the reason they got into the profession to start with. Bevier suggests, “Unfortunately, so many things cloud that mission — the demands of teaching that take attention away from the actual work with students, circumstances the children experience at home, etc. Remind yourself regularly of your mission/calling to teach and stay connected to a colleague or two that have the same mission so you can encourage one another.”

Arthur adds, “I often tell my colleagues and friends, empowered teachers empower students. We want our children to find their voices, but we can’t teach them to do that until we’ve found our own. Pick the one cause that means the world to you, with problems that plague your classroom and students’ education, and join the other champions in education who are already working on addressing it — get informed, get involved, learn the playbook that’s been passed down by the incredible educators who came before us, and, when you’re ready, take the lead.”

In the case of these educators, heroes are humble. Bevier says, “I would not call it going above and beyond. It is simply seeing a need and meeting a need. Almost every educator I have ever met made teaching their career because they wanted to help students. It was seen by them as a mission or a calling,” which is why Bevier doesn’t see himself as a hero. “To apply it to me is a misuse of the word. To me, a hero is someone who takes risks outside of their assigned duties to help others. In reality, I am just doing my job…that is not a hero, that is a responsible adult.”

So yes, there are heroes among us, in all our lives. Yet, in the work I do with educators, I often realize just how many give of themselves to help students become successful members of society. To John Arthur, Sean Bevier, Michelle Kruse, and every educator out there, thanks for all the heroic deeds you perform every day.

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Britten Follett
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