A Letter to Vermont’s Teachers

It’s teacher appreciation week! Below you’ll find a letter to the thousands of Vermont educators who do the critical work of educating the next generation everyday. I wrote them a letter to say thank you.

Dear Vermont Teachers,

Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of watching Vermont’s extraordinary educators in action. I cherish you all because even now, amid a pandemic that worsens so many of the inequities you battle on a daily basis, you look into your students’ eyes, on zoom or in your mind, and dare to believe in our shared and hopeful future. You know a strong school community, like a strong democracy, honors the unique strengths and interests and opinions of its members, while binding them together in pursuit of that more perfect union. The Vermont Constitution says our government is for the common benefit of all the people, not the particular advantage of any single person, family, or set of persons. Vermont education is how we put the power of Vermont behind the wellbeing of all our children, not just some of our children. This is the “unity” in our state motto.

At your best, you champion that radically democratic belief that all our children are all worthy, no matter who they are, where they live, or where they come from. This is unity, so our young are free to grow up strong. And in this moment of this pandemic, I see many of you striving to do so much more. You notice that young people need hope and strive to help carry their burdens until they see the way forward and are strong enough to carry their burdens themselves. You know young people need purpose, and even remotely, you are striving for ways and energy to innovate and transform, so that learning doesn’t lose meaning and relevance in this time of physical isolation. You know play is the first work of young people. It’s how they learn to collaborate and imagine. You are working preserve moments for joy in the day because that is the medicine that helps both young people and families cope. You know that above all, as we are physically distant, our young people need connections to sustain them. This is more true now than ever, both for adults and for our children. Sticks in a bundle are stronger. It is true for you as well. You know Vermont is not always just or fair. Poverty is cruel—it makes children fear hunger, rather than focus on learning. And, systemic racism can strangle the dreams of too many Vermonters in our only growing demographic group. Thank you for refusing to let this happen.

Teaching is about hope and about strengthening our future. I am grateful for all you do in education to make Vermont a place where all people are free to develop their gifts and share their potential with the world. I am grateful to you for working so hard now to reach and notice each of your students, in whatever way you can. I know it is hard in ways you never anticipated. And I know how much some of your communities struggle against adversity. I know you are doing this with your own children on your lap or with worries in your heart about your own loved ones. You do it because you can. I am grateful to you for doing this despite a political climate that tries to paint you, like many of the other public institutions on which our most vulnerable depend, as the enemy and the problem.

Your work is hard and often messy, and like all people and communities, it is imperfect. But it is also one of the best & most visible reminders of how communities come together to plan for a hopeful future, with opportunity and health for all.

Thank you for all you do,