JACKSON ― May 4-8 is National Teacher Appreciation Week, and the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents is taking steps to raise awareness of opportunities in the teaching profession while celebrating the difference educators make in the lives of students, families and communities across the state.
“When we think of careers that make a lasting impact on society, few can compete with teaching,” said Dr. Phillip Burchfield, executive director of MASS. “Teachers are empowered to shape futures by giving students the knowledge and tools to establish successful lives and livelihoods. We want to shine a light on Mississippi’s educators and show the many ways they contribute to stronger communities, thriving economies and a brighter future for our state.”
Last year, MASS launched the Unleash Possible campaign to address the state’s teacher shortage by encouraging service-minded Mississippians to consider careers in education. A big step is taking its message directly to high school and college students throughout Mississippi via conversations that focus on the benefits and opportunities of teaching careers.
In addition, MASS is aggressively working with state leaders to develop more robust recruiting and hiring practices for Mississippi’s public schools as well as better pay, stronger certification standards and other incentives to build and strengthen Mississippi’s teacher workforce.
“The teacher shortage won’t correct itself — it’s time for Mississippi to take action, and MASS is prepared to lead,” Burchfield said. “When it’s time for students to choose a career path, we want them to consider the lifelong impact they can make as teachers and share the success stories of educators throughout Mississippi who are making a positive difference every day.
“Mississippians deserve schools that provide a world-class education and prepare students for successful futures,” he said. “We can do that by recruiting more high-quality educators who are incentivized to teach in Mississippi.”
In recent months, the coronavirus response has demonstrated the central role that schools play in society and the lasting impact that teachers make on students’ lives and futures. With COVID-19 precautions still in place, Burchfield believes it’s more important than ever to let teachers know how much they are appreciated for answering the call to serve.
“Teachers adapted very quickly to new demands and expectations brought on by the COVID-19 crisis,” he said. “They have been a stabilizing resource for students and families, many of whom are experiencing hardships because of the pandemic. Even in the face of unprecedented challenges, teachers are answering the call to serve and finding creative, resourceful ways to support their students.”
As soon as closures were announced in March, teachers began helping their districts successfully transition to alternative modes of instruction, such as distance learning and providing at-home learning packets. School closures have been especially difficult for students who don’t have internet access and smart phones at home, and many also lack access to transportation.
“Teachers have first-hand insights into the everyday struggles that many students face because of their economic situations,” Burchfield said. “They are working tirelessly to ensure that their students have the resources they need to stay on track with their schoolwork and stay focused on preparing for the upcoming school year.”
With the support of teachers, many schools also have been able to prepare and distribute meals for students along with school supplies and other needs.
“The future is still uncertain, but when the time comes to re-open schools, our teachers will do whatever it takes to make the transition as smooth and organized as possible,” Burchfield said. “They have truly gone above and beyond this year to serve the needs of students and families across Mississippi, and they are deserving of our gratitude.”