Guest column/This week’s an opportunity to recognize our teachers

The first week of May is set aside each year as National Teacher Appreciation Week. But there’s something very special about this observance from Monday through Friday, a time when education in Ohio and the nation are finally moving back toward normal. After a long and trying year of disrupted learning, we have a special obligation to recognize the extra burdens placed by the pandemic on those who serve in an already challenging profession. In this year, of all years, teacher appreciation is most certainly due.

Without question, the pandemic has been hard on many professions. Millions of Americans, in addition to teachers — including health care workers, first-responders and so many others — deserve our strongest show of support for their service in stressful and uncertain times.

But I have two special reasons for spotlighting the extraordinary work of our teachers and educators who adapted so quickly and effectively to the pandemic’s many challenges. First, as an educator myself, I clearly understand what it means to have the normal patterns of teaching and learning turned on their ear. Second, as chancellor of Western Governors University Ohio, I see hundreds of students in the WGU Teachers College graduate each year with accredited bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. I’m proud to know they’re using the skills we taught them to embark on a teaching career or to advance further in their profession.

In fact, I believe that WGU graduates have been particularly well-prepared to cope with the special challenges of teaching school in times of s pandemic. Because WGU is an online-only university, where students learn at their own pace without the confines of a campus or classroom setting, our graduates are less likely to be shaken by classroom closures and the sudden shift to virtual learning. That’s because they already are familiar with learning that’s provided in innovative ways and offered online, outside a traditional classroom setting. Being accustomed to digital education, these teachers have been able to adjust to remote learning without missing a beat. In the process, they’ve also helped their students make that transition as well.

In addition, our competency-based approach to education means WGU students earn credit toward a degree by demonstrating their mastery of a subject from previous work experience, rather than by how many hours they sit in the classroom or are forced to spend “re-learning” what they already know. This makes all WGU degree programs — in education, business, health care services, nursing and information technology — ideal for adult students who have job or family obligations that make pursuing a traditional, campus-based degree out of the question.

As a sign of our appreciation of teachers this year, WGU Ohio is offering special $4,000 scholarships to help make the dream of a career in education more accessible for aspiring teachers. Available through June 30, these scholarships are for prospective teachers who want to earn their teacher certification as well as for current educators ready to advance their careers. Information is available at www.wgu.edu/wgulovesteachers.

National Teacher Appreciation Week is not only an opportunity to show our gratitude to educators. It’s also a time for all of us — students, parents, community members — to strengthen our commitment to those who educate and mentor America’s next generation of leaders.

(Allen is chancellor of WGU Ohio, the state affiliate of online, nonprofit Western Governors University.)


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