A pack of gummies may be just a snack to some people, but to others, it may mean the difference between success and failure.
For the past two years, I have been a teacher’s assistant during summer school in my home school district in Virginia. The first summer, I worked with 3-year-olds in an early childhood special education program.
While working with a boy in the 3-year-old class, I discovered he would communicate with me and do his work if he received gummies as a reward. He was calm and focused when he was working toward the gummies, and by the end of the five weeks, I had spent approximately $15 of my own money just for that little boy.
While spending personal money on a child’s education may be admirable, on average teachers spend $1,000 per school year on supplemental materials to help their students succeed, and sometimes those materials come from a teacher’s own weekly personal budget.
Why be a teacher, then, if they don’t make much money, they receive very little funding to run a classroom and there are so few jobs available? Many teachers will tell you that despite all of those things, they do it for the love of seeing a child succeed, even if it means paying out of pocket to do so.
I’ve seen and experienced the importance of being a teacher. I’ve seen their impact on students and how the connection with one teacher can make a lifetime of difference. There is no way that these teachers can have this impact if there is not adequate funding. Having funding means that more teachers can be hired, class sizes can be lowered and the teacher can spend more individual time with each student, making sure he or she is able to grow academically and socially. From elementary school to college, having a class of 30 students versus 20 students has a vast impact on classroom dynamics and learning abilities. Being able to sit down with a student and explain something one-on-one is often imperative to a student’s success.
Though it is often said that the country is in the hands of the youth, the success of our nation depends on our educators. Teachers are the ones who inspire and give the youth the knowledge to succeed. First announced in November 2009, President Barack Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign places emphasis on the industries of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). According to www.whitehouse.gov, this is so that all students can learn deeply and think critically in these areas. It is a collaborative effort between the federal government, private sector and the nonprofit and research communities to raise the standing of American students in these critical areas. Though the focus is on the students, this program, and ones like it, will not succeed without the educators.
Federal education programs cannot have an impact if there is not funding to prepare the educators. In Virginia, for example, there is very little funding and few days allotted for substitutes so that teachers can attend conferences and trainings for the teachers to better themselves professionally. Therefore, teachers must take time outside of work and use money from their own pockets to meet the increasing expectations of parents, the school and the government for the highest quality teachers.
With the reelection of President Obama comes the continued fight for education and the promise of making it a top priority by investing more money, from early child care to the university level. Obama just proposed a new initiative that includes programs that allow students to simultaneously earn a teaching degree while getting a science, technology, engineering or mathematics degree. It is proposals like this that make me hopeful for the fight for education, the educators and the students whose success is the priority. It is programs like this that may be the gummies the country needs.
Rebecca Neidle is a senior integrated marketing communications major at Ithaca College. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.