We’ve all known it for a long time. But we’re reminded around this time of year that the very best educators get up every morning and head out, not to work, but to a cause.
Nothing else can explain some of the amazing things that some of these folks do day in and day out. These educators aren’t going to work just for a paycheck. They’re driven by their mission to do good in their communities.
Consider the finalists for this year’s LifeChanger of the Year grand prize award, which is how we meet some of the best around the country.
In Oklahoma, Theresa Barkhimer’s job is a school-based social worker at Shawnee Middle School. But she does so much more. She maintains a food pantry for three schools in the district, distributes holiday meals and gifts and draws in her students as she sets an example of service to others.
Dennis Kass teaches history, law and social studies at Infinity Math, Science and Technology High School in Chicago. But he also has a law degree and he has used that to start a legal clinic at Infinity where he offers free legal advice to students and families. He also started a foundation to provide legal services to thousands of low-income families and students.
Second Chance Alternative High School is just what its name implies, another opportunity for students to make lives for themselves. And Shane Thill, director of the school, is a big part of the reason why. He inspires his students by making certain that students know they have a nurturing environment to learn and explore who they are so they can achieve their full potential.
Marla Cosner has been a profound influence on her students at Mesquite Continuation High School in California. She teaches English, social studies and music and she lives her values every day. She supports her community through a nonprofit that she helped found, the Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society, whose proceeds are donated to music education in the school district.
And in Georgetown, Texas, Amanda Reyes is more than a physical education teacher at Tippit Middle School. She’s also a coach and she instills strong moral values in her students. How? By demonstrating her own commitment to such causes as raising money for cancer research and treatment and helping her students and athletes join her in the cause.
What an impressive group of people who truly personify selfless education. If you talk to them, none of them talks about their cause. They simply do. And all we can say is, “Thank you.”