Teachers earn high marks

One of the most enduring marketing strategies is the Procter and Gamble claim that Ivory soap is “99 and 44/100 percent pure” which is more than 100 years old. The phrase has become synonymous with a standard of excellence.

According to a recent article in the Tribune Chronicle, the state of Ohio can claim a group of professionals who apparently top that high mark. Some 99.5 percent of teachers in our state conduct themselves with professional decorum, with “only about 0.5 percent of the 185,000 licensed educators” being investigated for any type of misconduct.

That is great news. I should write 99.5 sentences about the good deeds which teachers do daily, and add a single clause about the misdeeds committed by the few.

Lately, the actions of teachers have been in the national news due to the tragedies in Nevada and Massachusetts. In Nevada, Michael Landsberry, who has been identified as a service veteran in addition to being a veteran teacher, died because of the actions of a 12-year-old with a gun. Landsberry was trying to talk with the assailant, and in doing so, allowed many students to seek safety. Colleen Ritzer of Massachusetts was brutally murdered, apparently, because she wanted to be sure that a student in her math class was prepared for a test the next day since he had been doodling rather than taking notes in class.

Both teachers were engaged in what 99.5 percent of educators regularly do: they dedicate themselves to the well-being of their students.

In the hours following the grim discovery of Ritzer’s body, the 24-hour cable news services were trying to cover the story with their usual repetition of the same 10-second loop of video. One anchor, in the studio, was interviewing a reporter on the scene in Danvers. He asked if there had been a relationship between the 24-year-old teacher and her alleged murderer.

The inflection which he gave to the word “relationship” suggested more than a student-teacher relationship. His colleague gave a tight lipped answer that there had been no details as yet. She almost seemed embarrassed to respond to such an accusatory question and innuendo.

It is not only the studio anchor’s question which I find offensive but the number of people in his audience who may have suspected the same in the first hours of the investigation. Instead of assuming that 99.5 percent of teachers are honorable, too many of us assume the worst.

As we begin this month of giving thanks, I am thankful for the actions of teachers who conduct themselves with a passionate professionalism. They are not daunted by “high stakes” assessments, new and cumbersome evaluation measures, and the scrutiny of a public which all too often has no idea about the responsibilities and the duties of these fine people. They simply want to pass on knowledge to the children who are placed in their care.

The Tribune’s program of honoring area teachers has been in existence since 1991. Therefore, I am also thankful to our newspaper and to the thousands of students and parents who have penned letters nominating a teacher for this honor. Your actions are much appreciated by those who view education as more than a career: it is a vocation.

P.S.: Today is Election Day. The polls are open until 7:30 p.m. One of the tasks of those teachers is to pass on the culture of our nation to the next generation. One of our tasks as citizens is to teach all our children about our country by our example.

Be a role model to all the young people with whom you come into contact: exercise your franchise and vote. Maybe 99 and 44/100 percent can be the turnout in our region today, and we can set a new standard ourselves.

Williams is a Hubbard resident. Email him at editorial@tribtoday.com.