Friday, November 2, 2018

Celebrating American Education Week

A column by Interim Secretary of Education Mary Stadick Smith

November 12-16 is American Education Week, a time to celebrate our nation’s public schools.

In South Dakota, we all have reason to be proud of the good work our schools do to serve students. A lot is asked of our state’s educators, and they routinely step up to the challenge, supporting students of all abilities and backgrounds.

When you consider some of the common metrics used to measure school success – things like attendance rates, graduation rates, test scores – South Dakota typically stacks up well compared to other states. But our schools are so much more than a set of metrics. They are a place where young minds are challenged and nurtured, a place where personalities are formed, character is developed, and future citizens and leaders begin to find their voices. These intangibles can be difficult to measure, but in the end, they are just as valuable as the academic content we want our students to master.

Like so many parents, I know that my child’s educators are a trusted source for helping me understand her academic progress and social development. They are the experts who have devoted their lives to kids, and they constantly strive to hone their craft.

It’s not only teachers and administrators who make up the fabric of a school. Librarians, paraprofessionals, coaches, office and school lunch staff, bus drivers, custodians, and others play vital roles as well. And in many of our state’s small schools, some employees wear several of these hats all at once.

Of course, parents and families are their children’s first teachers, and they have an integral role in the formal education process as well. A student does best when he or she has a strong support system both inside and outside the school walls.

During American Education Week, let’s take time to celebrate the successes of our public school system and to recognize the individuals who have made it their life’s work to help students build a solid foundation of knowledge, skills and experiences that will serve them well in postsecondary, careers and life.