Did you know that May was Teacher Appreciation Month in South Carolina? Yes, indeed; proclaimed by every governor since 2012. The gesture, much like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (June 17, by the way), is an important reminder to acknowledge and celebrate a group of people who are pivotal in our lives. Of course, we all know that every day is Mother’s and Father’s Day, just like every month is Teacher Appreciation Month, right?
Though South Carolina’s teachers have not staged walk-outs like their peers in other states, our educators are no less struggling with the burden of increasing responsibilities compensated by decreasing paychecks.
Contrary to popular belief, most teachers work well beyond a 40-hour work week and do not in fact get the summer off — often taking additional jobs to pay the bills, as covered in Jamie Self’s recent reporting. In the meantime, the average teacher salary in South Carolina, adjusted for inflation, has declined 6 percent since 2000.
So, no, we’re pretty far from every month being Teacher Appreciation Month in our state.
But all is not lost. In May, S.C. Future Minds polled teachers with one simple question: How can your community support you year-round? Dozens of teachers from across the state responded with answers ranging from relatively straight-forward — “volunteer to read to local students” — to slightly more committed suggestions: “become a teacher yourself!”
We were so delighted by the response that we compiled a list, “21 Ways to Support Teachers,” with actionable items that all of us can use all year-round.
In the meantime, we’re now one week into June, with the “official” month of teacher appreciation behind us. And yet, the No. 1 way to support a teacher still lies ahead of us: On Tuesday, we get to vote.
South Carolina desperately needs leadership that recognizes the importance of investing in our public school teachers and the young minds they are molding. The stakes could not be higher for the 750,000 children who are in our classrooms today, and all those who will follow. On Tuesday, we have the opportunity, not to mention the privilege and civic duty, to cast our votes in a primary election that may very well determine whether our school system adapts and excels or continues to flounder in a changing economy.
If South Carolina is going to truly appreciate its teachers, we need to vote like it. To find out more about where our gubernatorial candidates stand on education, I invite you to visit scfutureminds.org/vote. Then cast your vote for the candidate who you believe will value the contribution of our educators not only during the month of May, but all year long.
Caroline P. Mauldin
Executive Director, S.C. Future Minds
The State publishes a cross section of the letters we receive from South Carolinians in order to provide a forum for our community and also to allow our community to get a good look at itself, for good or bad. The letters represent the views of the letter writers, not necessarily of The State.