Counting our nearly 2,500 blessings

November 21, 2017

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As we go into the Thanksgiving holiday, it is important to reflect on all the things we have to be grateful for. Being grateful for family, friends and health are top of the list for most people. Being grateful for the dedication of those who commit their lives to making a difference is another area to add to the list.

There are none in this arena more worthy of our appreciation and gratitude than our teachers.

A group of elected officials, business and community leaders dispatched to about 40 Oklahoma City Public Schools last week to participate in the Teacher for a Day event. The event is designed to give these community members a firsthand experience in our classrooms and to gain a better understanding of the challenges they overcome every day and of those that need outside help.

Emerson South opened in August 2017 as an alternative for students struggling in the traditional school environment. The school provides a flexible schedule, smaller class sizes and immensely dedicated and professional educators.

My visit there was an amazing experience and I was given the opportunity to visit with several middle school and high school teachers and students.

Principal Buxton met me at the door and took me throughout the school, stopping in classrooms along the way. We stopped first in Mr. Foerester's science class. The students were using technology to calculate inertia, force and motion.

We spent time in Ms. Williams' English class where students were researching and writing about places they'd like to visit. Dubai seemed to be the popular destination.

Ms. Gooden's family and consumer science class included a lesson on personal character while the students learned how to make whipped cream for their homemade banana pudding.

Ms. Thomas' English class had ominous music featuring thunder and rain as they worked on their stories leading with, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Mr. Gleason sat among his students using a small white board to do algebra problems along with them. He asked questions as if it was casual conversation and not math. The students answered the same way, but clearly knew their stuff.

Every class I entered had a teacher that exuded positivity, care and commitment.

Most of the students were completely engaged, but the ones that weren't were given some degree of independence to be that way. One student who appeared to be sleeping lifted his head when the teacher gently put her hand on his shoulder. She asked him kindly if he had worked the night before and he nodded sleepily.

Another student shared that Emerson works for her because the flex schedule allows her to take care of her child.

Finding ways to help all students be successful is a common theme for Oklahoma City Public Schools. It is a mighty task, but worthy of every ounce of our energy.

Pausing to be thankful is so important this time of year. To say our teachers hold our future in their hands is an understatement. They should be thanked and lifted up every day of the year.