Dr. Hans Andrews is Distinguished Fellow in Community College Leadership and former President of Olney Central College in Illinois. He was also a Dean of Instruction and Vice President of Community and Student Services at two other community colleges in Illinois and Michigan and was an adjunct faculty member at Illinois State University. Hans is credited for starting the first dual-credit program between a community college and secondary school in the United States. He also served as the national community college spokesperson on teacher evaluation and recognition for outstanding teachers. His seven books and many of his 130 journal publications have highlighted recognition, evaluation, and dual-credit. Hans has been a contributor of articles to the Higher Education Digest on numerous occasions. His professional career started out as a secondary school teacher of business and as a school counselor. His Doctorate in Counseling Psychology is from the University of Missouri-Columbia. His Masters Degree and Baccalaureate degrees are from Michigan State University and Central Michigan University respectively.
As you know, I have just received a teaching award which was both a surprise and an honor. What a perfect way this is for the school to say we appreciate what you are doing. Nothing can be more revitalizing for a worker than for your employer to say, ‘nice job.’ – Sue Myers, Illinois Valley Community College
This is a most important time for schools across the world to reach out and find ways to honor and ‘recognize’ their good teachers. Many of the teachers and support staffs took on both remote and classroom preparation/combination teaching during the recent years of the pandemic. In addition, with the growing shortages of teachers in many countries during this same period, many teachers had to accept additional daily teaching hours so students would not be left without a teacher.
Columbia University Study Results
Some years ago Columbia University in New York City conducted a survey of what recognition meant to veteran teachers in terms of importance. These teachers felt such recognition gave them a positive feeling about their work:
- Receiving respect
- Receiving recognition; and
- Receiving reinforcement for what they were doing
The importance of supportive administrators
Secondary school teachers in another study identified the stress factors they were facing. The number one factor they identified was the relationship with their school administrators. Administrators are important in that they can develop the kind of supportive and positive work environment that teachers need to do their work and knowing they have support in their schools.
Teachers leaving their schools prior to and during the recent pandemic years also identified a lack of support and unrealistic demands in their work as major contributing factors. A few years earlier The Centre for Marketing Schools in Australia, surprisingly, noted that over sixty percent of the 860 teachers they surveyed were considering leaving their teaching jobs. These teachers were from the five states of South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and Wales.
Some of the reasons given for considering leaving were as follows: (1) lack of, or poor, communications between administration and teachers; (2) a lack of respect for their work; and (3) lack of recognition for the work they were doing. Some twenty seven percent referred to their school principal as not being approachable.
Leadership in celebrating teachers
The former Premier of Ontario, Canada, gave an outstanding commitment to teachers before the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Canada some years ago:
It’s time Mr. Speaker, to celebrate excellence in teaching. I am announcing today the Premier’s Awards for Teaching Excellence. Next to parents and families, who play the most important role of all, teachers are the greatest single influence over our Children’s future.
So it is entirely fitting that we celebrate great teaching – and great teachers. We will celebrate teachers and support staff that foster leadership by teaching what it means to lead. We will celebrate teachers who show a special ability and commitment to teaching children with special needs. We will celebrate teachers who best prepare children for their entire lifetime. We will celebrate new teachers.
This was an exceptional commitment to excellence in teaching by Premier Dalton McGuinty in his address as the leader of a large province in Canada.
The state of Texas also presented numerous positive reasons why their Teacher of the Year program had become very important for their teachers:
- Being nominated is a memorable experience for teachers nominated
- It is valuable for students to share the joy and pride to see teachers they know get recognized
- The significance for both the faculty and school adds credibility to the teaching staff throughout their communities
- It is important for the profession in ways of improving the image of teachers with their students, parents, and community leaders
How teachers feel about their special recognition
The importance of special recognition for outstanding teaching often catches teachers by surprise as so often it has been an area of neglect. The following comments were captured from some of the award winners:
Lisa Carrier, Jefferson School in Ottawa, Illinois: I’m just overwhelmed. Everyone in this building or this district is just as worthy of receiving this as I am. She said the award was unexpected and she does the job because she knows she is affecting her students’ lives.
Koshu Jagasia, Teacher in United States and India: The Faculty Excellence Award I received feels like a celebration of some of the toll teachers and their families pay. It was important to share this recognition with my family, friends, and my teachers. I could feel their pride in my success. The picture of the medal on my neck will always be close to my heart.
Bill Cecil, Former Teacher of the Year in Michigan, U.S. in responding to whether he felt the nomination was for his work in the classroom with students: Very much so. I thought it must have something to do with the work I was doing in my classroom. I also felt many other teachers I know should have been nominated for what they were doing in their classrooms as well.
The National Association of Elementary School Principals surveyed their All-USA awarded teachers with the following impacts coming out of this group:
- It boosted their self-esteem
- It renewed confidence in their teaching
- It gave them a voice in their profession
- It inspired them to work harder
- It validated their ideas that they were doing the ‘right thing for kids’
Time is now to expand teacher recognition across the globe
Much is needed from political leaders, national and state and local education leaders, and individual school governing boards to find new and creative ways to recognize their good teachers. The number of teachers leaving their profession now for new careers and/or early retirements in many countries has greatly increased. It needs to be stemmed as soon as possible. Increasing teacher recognition programs can be one of the most important ways to highlight how to improve working conditions. Support for teachers needs to become a priority everywhere. What better time than now!