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Appreciating Our Educators – There is Nothing More Jewish!

Each year the first full week of May officially brings a national focus of gratitude directed at educators across the country with an abundance of expressions of appreciation for teachers and what they do. I personally believe that every day of the year should be recognized as Teacher Appreciation Day. We at the Efshar Project are filled with gratitude for the dedicated, creative, and responsive care that the 200+ early educators in our network give to young children throughout the Denver/Boulder area each and every day. Our appreciation has been magnified these past two years given the complications of the pandemic and the resulting challenges teachers have had to navigate. The educators in our network of schools are our honored partners who work on the ground daily to create inspiring and responsive environments that support the learning of our youngest citizens. The National Education Association (NEA) describes National Teacher Day “as a day for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives.”

There is something so Jewish about this idea. Two things that Judaism places highest value upon are the expression of gratitude and the importance of teaching and learning. The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat ha’tov which translates to “recognizing the good.” It is a reminder to express our appreciation when and where it is felt. There is also no shortage of expressions of reverence for educators throughout Jewish teachings. In the Talmud it is said that “the true guardians of a community are the teachers” and Pirkei Avot teaches us to “Revere your teacher as you would heaven.” The wise rabbi and philosopher, Abraham Jonathan Heschel captured the essence of the power and impact of teachers, especially those of young children, when he said, “What we need, more than anything else, isn’t textbooks but rather text people. It is the personality of the teacher which is the text that students read – the text that they’ll never forget.” Teaching carries quite a weight of responsibility and it’s right that we dedicate some energy to showing our appreciation to those who dedicate their lives to educating young children. There is a lesser-known Kaddish prayer called Kaddish D’Rabbanan/the Rabbi’s or Teacher’s Kaddish for expressing gratitude to those who teach. A simple and beautiful adaptation of this blessing that I find appropriate as appreciation of teachers rises to the forefront comes from the Book of Jewish Sacred Practices; CLAL’s Guide to Everyday & Holiday Rituals & Blessings.

A blessing for teachers:

“May you be blessed and strengthened as you have blessed and strengthened your students.

 May you have peace, grace, kindness, mercy, long life and everything you need.” pg. 189

So as we approach this formal week of expressing gratitude to teachers in our lives and in the lives of children, I’m reminded of a quote from William Arthur Ward which states that “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Reflect on a teacher who has touched your life or someone in your life in a positive way and take a moment to reach out and express your gratitude to them – now and throughout the year. I know in my many years as an early educator, such notes of appreciation were the greatest gifts I received. And, if you are an early childhood educator, I wish to personally thank you for the tiring, yet very meaningful, impactful, and hopefully rewarding work you do every day.

Toda rabah/thanks so much!