Now’s the time to thank teachers

April 20, 2021 by Emily Enders Odom

When a 12-year-old Jesus escaped his parents’ watchful eye during the family’s annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the anxious couple returned to find him at long last in the temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”

For today’s pupils, being back in the school or church classroom in the presence of their beloved teachers — a deeply human longing that perhaps has been taken for granted — is something that they have, until recently, only dreamed about.

During a year like no other when students and teachers alike were confined to mainly remote learning, the world’s teachers — propelled by a love for both their charges and their profession — went to great lengths to nurture that all-important student-teacher relationship.

It’s time for the Church to say thanks.

“Educators in our schools and in our churches are what have kept our children and youth sane during this pandemic,” said the Rev. Doodle Harris, associate pastor for Christian Education & Youth at Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. “While it has been difficult to have connection during this time, teachers have become pastors, connectors and counselors. They’ve had unprecedented insights into our young people. Teachers see the posters that hang on children’s walls, meet the children’s pets, and learn where children throw their dirty laundry. They are meeting kids where they are — literally — and showing our kids that they are still good, still smart, and still valuable to their communities.”

Recognizing that this has been a remarkably stressful season for educators, parents and children, the Education Roundtable of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog — timed with the observance of National Teacher Appreciation Day on May 4 — are partnering to encourage pastors, church leaders and individuals to thank those in their congregations and communities who have been involved in education during this difficult year.

A sample of the six downloadable postcards that can be sent in appreciation for educators.


The two ministries have collaborated to offer six colorful downloadable postcard-sized (7” x 5”) sayings — such as “You inspire me” and “The world is a better place because of you” — designed to send to educators.

“Words are important,” said Veda Pendleton, a literacy specialist, author and non-profit CEO, who is a ruling elder at Harvey Browne Presbyterian Church in Louisville. “We know this because God spoke our world into being. Kind words carry tremendous weight for the recipient. It is, therefore, fitting that we pause after a year of the struggles of COVID-19 and show appreciation to educators at all levels who have continued to brave the task of educating our students. Some of us taught virtually, while others donned personal protective equipment and taught lessons in person while wearing masks. And even in the face of potential disease, teachers showed up to do their jobs to teach the prescribed curriculum along with empathy and perseverance. We should all be grateful for these gifts. Thanks be to God.”

Author and nonprofit CEO Veda Pendleton (Image from her book cover)

To celebrate National Teacher Day, congregations, mid councils and others are also encouraged to make a gift in honor of educators through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog by selecting the Educate a Child item or perhaps making a selection from among the Catalog’s other education items.

Now in its seventh, record-breaking year, the Presbyterian Giving Catalog — which is available both in print and online as well as for immediate download in Spanish and Korean — is filled with a wide variety of gifts that provide real and positive impact around the world, including aid for refugees, access to clean water and ways to end hunger.

The Educate a Child, Transform the World initiative — which is supported by gifts to the Pentecost Offering — is a response to the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to help ensure equitable, accessible, quality public education for 1,000,000 children in the U.S. and globally. Its Education Roundtable, which is convened by the Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson, coordinator of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People, was established to encourage and lead Presbyterians in their support of education and teachers, with the Education Covenant being one tool they have developed to help congregations learn how to better support all those engaged in public education.

Choosing to become an Educate a Child congregation is also an excellent way that churches can be actively engaged in the work of Matthew 25, namely building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and/or eradicating systemic poverty.

According to Roundtable member Rosalyn McKeown-Ice, the Educate a Child, Transform the World Roundtable has members who have long been involved in public education as teachers, administrators and advocates as well as leaders of nongovernmental organizations that walk alongside of public schools to support the success of students and teachers.

Rosalyn McKeown-Ice (Contributed photo)

“The Roundtable members are blessed with gifts from God, like perseverance, determination, empathy, flexibility, passion and optimism,” said McKeown-Ice, a lifelong Presbyterian and commissioned pastor for a ministry to a local residential drug court. “They are also blessed with skills like the ability to envision a better future for children of God and paths to achieve that future. They are good at connecting people to concepts of justice as well as engaging them in opportunities to serve. For all these blessings they are grateful to God.”

McKeown-Ice, whose church family is the First Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge (Tenn.), described in an article she wrote for the May/June 2020 issue of Presbyterian Women’s Horizons magazine her congregation’s ongoing relationship with the nearby Willow Brook Elementary School as part of the Educate a Child initiative. The church’s relationship with the school  — which sits in one of the lowest-income neighborhoods of Oak Ridge — was also featured in a May 2020 story published by the Presbyterian News Service in support of the Pentecost Offering.

Last year at Christmas and this year on Valentine’s Day, the Oak Ridge congregation prepared goody bags for Willow Brook’s teachers through its Congregational Care and Welcome Committee, co-chaired by Mimi Tilley and Candice Strickler. The committee is the umbrella for the church’s Prayer Shawl Ministry, which sewed face masks and made mug rugs for the teachers.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” reads a note from Lori that the church published in the March 2021 issue of its Banner newsletter. “I am a TA at Willow Brook Elementary and one of the beneficiaries of your many thoughtful acts of kindness. What a surprise it was to walk into our mailroom and see colorful Valentine bags in every box. My mug rug is beautifully made and is already in use! Amazon cards and chocolate — you checked all the teacher boxes.”

As National Teacher Day approaches, Harris, for one, has already organized a group of volunteers at the Highland Church to send the postcards available through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog to all of the church’s preschool teachers and other educators.

“What a great idea,” she exclaimed.

Kevin Burns teaches one of Highland Presbyterian Church’s high schoolers. (Contributed photo)

At the Harvey Browne Church, Anne Hughes, a ruling elder, clerk of session and current moderator of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, also plans to join the effort.

“I would like to thank all the teachers, administrators and support staff who work so hard every year, but especially this year, in making a difference in the lives of our children and youth,” said Hughes, an administrative assistant at the Harvey Browne Preschool. “I have witnessed the sacrifices teachers have made this year to be with the children. Their reward is the joy and love the children give back and knowing their work starts the children on a path of a lifetime eager to learn. Being a teacher is a true calling; there are no words to adequately to express our true gratitude. Remember, you are loved!”

The Educate a Child, Transform the World initiative is supported by your gifts to the Pentecost Offering.

Now is the time to unite with thousands of others using the Presbyterian Giving Catalog to support the ministries closest to their hearts: feeding the hungry, comforting the brokenhearted and sharing our faith with young and old. Give today by clicking here.

This was published for Presbyterian News Service on April 20, 2021.

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