A Message for South Dakota Teachers

A Message for South Dakota Teachers

Life is a series of choices. Choosing well is the difference between happiness and unhappiness, integrity and despair – at least, in the terms used by psychologist Erik Erikson. Living a meaningful life and being able to view one’s life as meaningful is what enables integrity and joy; it is what escapes darkness.

It’s a sentiment worth remembering this Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6-10, the annual celebration of those who educate our young people from kindergarten through high school.

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Over the past few months, we’ve focused a lot on the importance of compensation in improving educator self-perception and happiness. This is an important factor, but not the Most important factor of satisfaction with career choice. This factor, I believe, is the innate value of the profession.

And in this area, I believe it will be difficult for you to find as much as teaching. For a teacher takes little children and guides them on their path, teaches them the things they need to know in life, academic and otherwise, and accompanies them in their defeats and in their triumphs. A teacher meets middle school humor with laughter and middle school angst with understanding and empathy. A teacher stands aside as the high school student begins to truly forge his own path, to surpass his master, to achieve goals and dreams he can only imagine.

Teaching is worth doing. It’s worth spending your life TO DO. As we say in our teacher recruitment and retention marketing campaign, teaching is a profession that “builds a future, builds the future.” I didn’t write this, but I wish I had – it elegantly captures what teaching is all about.

During this week of recognizing and celebrating South Dakota’s teachers, I invite you to visit to hear from some of our state’s best educators. Their passion and commitment to their students is inspiring and reflective of educators across the state. I also invite you to thank an educator this week and perhaps encourage someone you know to think about how they might “create a future to create the future.”

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Teaching is hard, and it has gotten even harder in recent years. Yet the challenges it presents also give rise to life-affirming triumphs as the days turn into weeks and months, and your students learn and grow into this potential you have discovered through your encouragement and your perseverance.

Thank you to all of our South Dakota teachers. You raise our children and our grandchildren. You are preparing them for a very promising future. And you guide their education and development. For all this and much more, thank you.

Dr. Joseph Graves is the South Dakota Secretary of Education.