The following letter was written by State School Superintendent Richard Woods during Teacher Appreciation Week. In Georgia, the Department of Education is celebrating Teacher Appreciation Month! The letter below is his message to Georgia teachers. It has been published unedited.
I will never forget the teachers who changed my life.
I carry them with me every day: my fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Michaels, who drove me home from school every day; Mrs. Phillips, who wrote a letter to encourage me when my family moved away; and Mr. Hudson, who sparked in me a love of art that enriches my life to this day and guides my thinking in my current role.
Joining them now are memories of Mrs. Linda Roberts, who worked across from me when I first started teaching, and all the other phenomenal educators who have encouraged me in my own life as an educator
Teachers changed my life, teaching shaped my life, and I want to spend the rest of my life honoring and making things better for Georgia’s teachers.
That means, first and foremost, making decisions that allow you to teach – to do what you know how to do, without unnecessary, burdensome bureaucratic interference. I’ve tried to do that in my time leading the Department of Education, from getting rid of the one-size-fits-all requirements around teacher observations to reducing standardized testing.
And it means ensuring that you have a voice – that your opinion and experience is valued and respected by state leaders. I’ve tried to do that by asking you to speak to the issues affecting teacher retention, inviting you to the table to help create Georgia’s ESSA plan, ensuring that committees of Georgia teachers are writing the Georgia Standards of Excellence, and meeting regularly with a teacher-led Teacher Advisory Council. I have met and spoken with many of you on my travels throughout the state, and hope to meet many more of you in the years to come.
I’ll sign this letter “State School Superintendent,” but there’s another title that means much more to me. I will always be a teacher at heart, and each day I’m trying to do the right thing by you – my colleagues – and the kids we serve.
I could not be more grateful for the lives you are shaping, the sacrifices you’ve made and the doors you’re swinging wide open in the lives of our youngest Georgians.
From the bottom of my heart – thank you.
State Superintendent of Schools