Children represent the future. When we look into the eyes of a young person, we are literally gazing into the future of our families, our communities, and yes, even our nation and world. Our future rests in those little growing hands.

Besides their home, there is perhaps no greater single influence in the life of a young person than the time they spend with teachers. A child’s knowledge, skills, and self-image are dramatically impacted by the people they call “teacher.” The size and shape of their dreams, the direction of their life, and what they do “when they grow up” are all uniquely and indelibly marked by their teachers.

This week is “Teacher Appreciation Week.” It is vitally important that we support teachers - they deserve our thanks and praise for all that they do. Teachers work under enormous pressure. Not only are they teaching academics, educators also are helping our kids learn basic life skills, such as communicating effectively and treating others with respect. Summing up the important role of teachers, President Obama once shared the following statement:

In classrooms across America, talented and hardworking teachers are nurturing a new generation of thinkers, doers, and dreamers. They teach the subjects and skills that will fuel the next century of growth and innovation, as well as the virtues and values -- like character, compassion, creativity, and resilience -- that will prepare their students to take on the challenges of the future. Our best teachers are role models who show our kids how to work hard and pursue a brighter tomorrow. They encourage our children's passions, inspire their imaginations, and help them realize the best versions of themselves.

Of course, our teachers need more than just an encouraging word once a year. They deserve the proper tools and resources necessary to fulfill the huge responsibility that we as a society place on them every day. And that support is needed year round.

How can we help educators? The answer varies for everyone. At Funds For Learning, we try to do our part by enabling classroom and library Internet connections. At a more tangible level, we also work directly with teachers who prepare E-rate paperwork. (NOTE: they get to start their E-rate paperwork in the evening after putting in a full day with students. How’s that for homework?)

For me personally, I volunteer as a member of the Board of Great Expectations, a not-for-profit organization that provides leadership development for superintendents and principals, as well as training and professional development for classroom teachers.

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Please take time this week to honor the teachers in your life. Thank them for the impact they have had on you and your loved ones. Let them know you appreciate the hard work, extra hours, and “above and beyond” self-sacrifice that so many times comes with teaching. Furthermore, consider ways that you might be able to further support and encourage those teachers on an on-going basis. The specifics of how each of us can show our gratitude and support to teachers will vary, but the significance of doing so remains the same.