Why Teachers Matter

Post by Derrick Toups, 3 May 2021

This school year has been extremely challenging for teachers, whether they have been teaching virtually or in-person. Many parents that I know are grateful for their childrens’ teachers and are wanting to find heartfelt ways to share a gesture of thanks. On social media last week, the parent of a former student of mine asked for teacher gift suggestions. Many people responded with ideas: gift cards, fruit baskets, lunch, coffee, personalized cards. I even contributed my own suggestion: a gift certificate for a massage!

With Teacher Appreciation Week upon us, I have been wondering — what if we showed teachers we appreciated them not just with gifts but by advocating for them?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual compensation for childcare workers in 2020 was $25,460 — around $12.24 per hour — which falls just below the federal poverty line for a family of four. We know the importance of quality care in the first five years of life, so why are the people teaching our youngest children among the most underpaid workers in the country, with nearly half of them receiving public income support?

Teachers matter, and on April 28, President Joe Biden showed his support for them as he released details of the American Families Plan, the proposed third phase of his “once-in-a-generation investment” in the children, families, and economic future of the United States.

To support children and families, the American Families Plan aims to provide “universal, quality-preschool to all three- and four- year-olds”, and to increase the minimum wage for early childhood educators to $15 an hour. This is a promising investment in the early childhood profession and the movement to make it a more sustainable and attractive career route.

For Teacher Appreciation Week this year, I encourage you to show your support for early childhood educators by adding your voice to the movement to increase their compensation and benefits. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has a great guide to build your advocacy skills that can help you advocate for our country’s early childhood workforce.

About the Contributor: Derrick Toups, M.Ed. is currently a four-year-old classroom teacher and faculty member of two community college Care and Development of Young Children programs. He is a board member of the Louisiana Early Childhood Association. Twitter: @derricktoups