Editor's note: Melissa Merrell shared these remarks with finalists for Union County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. We're sharing them with you in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week from May 3 to 7.
Yesterday, I was out walking, trying to get my 10,000 steps in and my little neighbor ran out to join me – in flip-flops.
Last March, when we were all sent home, she and I became reading buddies because I was no longer able to go to Benton Heights (Elementary School in Monroe). So I adopted my little neighbor as my reading budding.
This year, she is in kindergarten and so I proceeded to ask her, 'How is school going this year? Are you enjoying being in big school? What do you enjoy most about your school?'
My little neighbor looked at me with the biggest smile and she told me all about her beautiful big school. She said there was a big playground and a little playground. And that she had to take an extra set of clothes to school today because they might get wet from all the fun things that they were going to be doing outside.
She let me know that she was now reading all by herself and that her teacher is Mrs. Redding and that she really knows that her real name is Emily. We both agreed that Emily was a very cool name but she needed to stick to Mrs. Redding.
I share this with you tonight because you will always be someone's Mrs. Redding, someone's very first teacher, someone's favorite teacher, someone's mentor, someone's encourager and sometimes you might be that shoulder to cry on.
And yes, hopefully you will be someone's favorite memory. Let us never fail to be that someone.
For me it was Mrs. Andrews, my second grade teacher. She was my someone and I know each and every one of you here tonight is now thinking of their someone and that someone that made you want to become a teacher.
On behalf of the board of education, I do want you to know how very, very proud we are of our teachers.
We recognize that you are the backbone of our school district and our students and parents look to you to find direction, hope, trust and to discover their child's potential.
Yours is a huge responsibility – a guiding light that many do not have the courage or stamina to pursue, but you did it and you are doing it. So best wishes to each of you as we begin our announcement tonight and know that our board of education values your talent and your expertise as you gift each and every one of our students and our district every day.
Melissa Merrell chairs the Union County Board of Education.