School Board Candidates Speak Out: What Does Teacher Appreciation Week Mean to You?

Per Bengtsson|

By Dogwood Staff

May 12, 2023

Here at Dogwood, we’ve been celebrating teachers all week. As Teacher Appreciation Week draws to a close, here’s what some candidates for Virginia’s local school boards have to say about, well, appreciating teachers.

No elected official works more closely with teachers and schools than school board members. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked some candidates in this fall’s school board elections to tell us in their own words about why they appreciate teachers.

Erika Ogedegbe (current member of Loudoun County school board):

As an LCPS parent of three, for the past twenty years I’ve always understood that my children’s teachers were my partners in education. I may have been there for first words and steps, but our teachers are there to help and guide their continued growth in the classroom. Their passion and joy for teaching is a gift we should all be thankful for. Thank you to all of our teachers!

Madison Irving (running for Henrico County school board and a teacher himself):

I think my primary message about Teacher Appreciation Week is that it seems that the only professions with Appreciation Weeks are ones who are underpaid. I think that too often, we (teachers) aren’t appreciated enough year-round. I feel that the profession as a whole is at an inflection point such that if we continue down this path of treating teachers as they have been for the previous 20-30 years, we will lose more and more of them, and the quality of public education will continue to decline. There needs to be actual appreciation given to them (us) in the form of higher wages, better benefits, and more authority and support to do their jobs as professionals. That’s the type of appreciation I’d ask for and, I suspect, the type that most teachers actually want – the kind that will help us retain teachers, attract new ones, and lead to better student outcomes. Getting a few gifts one week a year is nice but is insufficient in light of what the job actually demands.

Carol Medawar (candidate for Spotsylvania County school board):

Teachers have played a huge part in my success. I did not have the strongest family life when growing up, and we moved constantly. Teachers and school were my refuge and the place where I found stability. I idealized my teachers from a young age and found myself using stuffed animals and dolls in my pretend classroom, and my favorite “toy” was my chalkboard and chalk.   I imitated my favorite teachers planning lessons and, as the oldest of all the grandkids, found myself tutoring my cousins even in elementary school. I believed my teachers who told me I could do anything and encouraged me to pursue mathematics, which was a subject I excelled in at school. Had I not had teachers telling me to pursue my dreams and helping me figure out my strengths, I don’t think I would have had the courage to go on to become a math teacher myself, and I definitely would not have pursued a doctoral degree in education without the support of amazing colleagues (who are all teachers).

I know these last few years have been an extremely difficult time to be a teacher. The divisive rhetoric has been difficult to ignore, especially about education challenges. What is happening in political circles with education is not indicative of the great work actually going on inside our local schoolhouses. I know with 100% certainty that amazing teachers and their support staff are inspiring, encouraging, and preparing the next generation of thinkers daily. This work is done largely without fanfare or accolades. So, during Teacher Appreciation Week, we should stop and take notice of these selfless acts and say THANK YOU! We need to celebrate the everyday hometown heroes in our community who leave lifetime impressions on us. Just about everyone can remember their favorite teacher. I hope that today’s teachers are able to block out the noise and remember that they are integral parts of any strong community and deserve nothing less than our gratitude and appreciation. 

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