In an ironic juxtaposition, one story on the front page of Friday's Journal-World focused on a student's prize-winning essay about how he was affected by a favorite teacher while another story reported that Kansas legislators had rejected a last-ditch attempt to provide additional school funding this year.
At the bottom of the page, a story reported on an essay written by Dylan Guthrie, a third-grader at Hillcrest School. His was one of the top three entries in a contest sponsored by the National Education Assn., asking students to write about "A Teacher to Remember."
Dylan doesn't have to look very far back to remember his science teacher, but Carol Abrahamson sounds like the kind of teacher many students would remember for the rest of their lives. Guthrie noted his teacher's ability to make her students laugh and hold their interest.
"She does a bunch of science units with us and makes it sound exciting," he said.
She also uses a science angle to encourage students to read their way to the moon. For every minute they read, an imaginary rocket travels a mile in space.
Abrahamson is pleased with the impression she has made on Dylan, but she shows the modesty that we expect from teachers. "Since he loves science so much, I think that's why he focused on me," she said. "I didn't teach him everything."
She may not have taught him "everything," but Abrahamson and other teachers like her have a pivotal role in a child's development. Do you know who won the Nobel Peace Prize when you were 6 years old? Or who won an Academy Award when you were 8? Probably not. But do you remember your first-grade teacher? Absolutely, and probably every teacher that came after.
That's why it's ironic that legislators aren't putting a higher priority on providing teachers and adequate salaries for teachers across the state. Additional funds to reward teaching excellence was a key component of plans to increase school funding this year. Without those funds many districts will be forced to cut staffing and hold the line on salaries.
Sure, legislators need to make sure the money they allocate for public schools is well-spent. That's true of every use of taxpayer money. But, as a matter of priorities, are legislators really responding to what Kansans think is important?
What is more important than giving students "teachers to remember"? It's hard to imagine a more higher priority for the state's future.