Reflections and gratitude

Coming to Doane College in 1972 was a pivot point in my life. Growing up in New York, I know my dad wanted me to earn a college degree and return to join the New York Police Department, where he and many of my extended family members made careers. He also really needed me on his bowling and softball teams. It sounded like a good plan until I was recruited to an internship at Crete High School to work with several students who had been struggling in the regular classroom. It was challenging work, but also very rewarding. It is ultimately what led me into teaching and I am indebted to the classroom teacher, Larry Starr, for opening the way through his encouragement. I haven’t looked back since.

We often talk about teaching as the profession that makes all professions possible. To be a teacher takes heart and compassion and – ever more recently – grit and determination. While most days are rewarding, teaching does present many challenges that, unfortunately, have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Increased student absences, behavioral challenges and learning loss would be understandable reasons for some to question the mission. But, as in years before, teachers will conjure what it takes to make it through this year and onto the next because, deep down, they know their work is the most important work that a society undertakes. It is why they enter teaching and why they battle through the difficulties.

I left teaching in 1981 to begin a 40-year career as an administrator. To keep my skills sharp, I have taught many college graduate courses, sat on dissertation committees and participated in excellent professional development. My most recent experience as a substitute teacher reminded me of the importance of our work and how challenging the classroom can be if a teacher isn’t organized with lesson plans and engaging each student at their level. LPS teachers are consistently going above and beyond to provide quality instruction for our students.

Shortly after announcing my retirement, I had a call from a former student who was older than 50. I was taken aback with his memory of my social studies classes and the impact he claims I had on his personal journey. As I hung up the phone, it occurred to me that this is what teaching is all about.

Thank you to each and every one of our close to 3,000 teachers and 5,000 staff members who support the classroom. Know that you are making a difference in the lives of our children and that they will take what they have learned from and use it as they continue their journey.

Happy holidays to all of our students, staff, families and community members who invest every day in LPS.

Steve Joel