American Education Week Focuses on Nation’s Commitment to Students and Educators
By Christiana Campos
Communities across the nation are joining the National Education Association this week to celebrate American Education Week (AEW). The annual observance, now in its 90th year, honors students’ hard work to learn, recognizes the professionalism and dedication of teachers, support staff and other educators, thanks parents and members of the community who help students succeed, and rededicates the community at large to quality public education for every student.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel kicked off the week-long celebration this morning with a visit to T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. Joined by Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Morton Sherman and other education leaders, Secretary Duncan and Van Roekel recognized T.C. Williams staff during a breakfast meet and greet. The leaders then met with T.C. Williams students for a discussion on the importance of education and what students believe their need to be successful in the 21st century economy.
“America’s students need all of us—educators, parents, students, elected officials and community leaders—working together and investing in their schools,” said Dennis Van Roekel. “The path to the American dream still runs through America’s public schools. American Education Week is a time to commit ourselves to providing great public schools so all students can pursue the American Dream.”
Each day during AEW will spotlight a different aspect of school life.
NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen and Parenting Executive Editor Stephanie Wood will co-host a briefing on Tuesday, Nov. 15 to unveil NEA’s new guide for developing effective partnerships to help improve student performance. NEA’s Family-School-Community Partnerships 2.0 report is designed to help educators develop more effective partnerships with the goal of improving student achievement.
School modernization will also be a focus throughout American Education Week. NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen will tour school buildings in Reading, Pa., on Tuesday to shine a light on the poor state of our nation’s public school buildings.
Wednesday is a national day of recognition of education support professionals (ESPs) who are integral members of the education team. Education Support Professionals (ESP) Day focuses on the importance of these school employees, who make up 40 percent of the school staff and take care of students every day, making sure they have the tools they need to succeed in school.
“American Education Week serves as a tribute to the team of people who work with our students, everyone from the classroom teacher and the bus driver to the cafeteria worker and the administration staff—plus countless others,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We honor and thank them for the work they do every day to make sure that our students are safe and able to learn.”
On Thursday, Educator for a Day events allow individuals from the community to serve as an educator to get a glimpse of a day in the life of a school employee. The visiting educator performs the duties of the regular educator in a normal day—teaching class, performing lunch and corridor duty, recess supervision, among other responsibilities. The program demonstrates to public officials and other decision-makers, the successes and challenges educators face and underscores the need for adequate staffing, materials, and facilities for students.
While elected officials and community leaders get a first-hand look at their local public schools during “Educator for a Day” events nationwide, Thursday, Nov. 17 is also a “Day of Action for the 99%” with events scheduled nationwide to raise awareness of our nation’s failing infrastructure, including the need for school modernization and education jobs. NEA members will join with other union members to demand that Congress take action to create jobs and invest in our nation’s infrastructure.
Substitute Educators Day, to be held on Friday, Nov. 18, focuses on professional educators who perform a vital function in the maintenance and continuity of daily education. Substitute educators are the educational bridges when regular classroom educators are absent. They are called early in the morning, take over lessons with short notice, and ensure that quality education is maintained in our classrooms. The professional substitute ensures that time is productive and furthers the student’s learning.
Each year, NEA conducts an online “Substitute Educators Poll,” to identify a well-known public figure who readers of NEA.org would like to see serve as a “substitute educator” for a day. Respondents to the 2010 online poll chose CNN’s Anderson Cooper. As a follow-up to releasing the poll results, NEA invited Cooper to spend the day as a substitute teacher in a public school. Earlier this month, Cooper spent a day in a New York City Public School to show viewers first-hand what it’s like to be a “substitute educator” for a day. The 2011 results will be release on Friday, Nov. 18.
Celebrated the week prior to Thanksgiving, American Education Week was first celebrated in 1921 with NEA and the American Legion as cosponsors. The week-long celebration grew out of national concern about illiteracy. The original goal of American Education Week—to generate public awareness and support for education—continues today.