CASEL Water Cooler

Teacher Appreciation Week: What We Learned as Teachers

May 6, 2024
Teacher Appreciation Week: What We Learned as Teachers

As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s give a shout-out to these skilled, dedicated, and caring professionals who support students throughout their education. At CASEL, we have special insight into all they do: Not only do we collaborate with the education systems that rely on them, we also have many former classroom teachers on our staff! So we asked them to share what they learned as teachers and how it makes them want to celebrate teachers all this week. 

“I started my career as a special education teacher in elementary school, but by the end of my time in the classroom, I was what we called at the time an ‘inclusion teacher.’ That means I taught in a third-grade general education class that included children with disabilities alongside other students. While I used all the special education resources at my disposal, it soon became clear that, foundationally, ALL students need the same things. They need to be listened to, their differences honored by varying approaches to ensure everyone has a safe space to grow and learn. They need someone who builds a connection with them and takes the time to figure out their needs, whether through breaks, buddy time, or time with the teacher. At CASEL, we call that social awareness and empathy. I applaud all teachers’ abilities to practice those important competencies.”
Dr. Aaliyah A. Samuel, President and CEO
Taught grade 3

“Students can be the greatest helpers on your journey to self-awareness. They are EXTREMELY honest! Building  relationships with over 100 middle school students each year can be a taxing and invaluable experience. Communication, empathy, resilience, and compassion were my keys to success. Leading a team and department of teachers empowered me to make responsible decisions. My realization was that I could not afford to have tunnel vision when making a decision and the keys to responsible decision-making included listening to the voices and experiences of others before the decision was made. Teaching was sometimes an emotional rollercoaster for me; there were highs and lows. As a middle school teacher, I learned to manage my emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, in order to mitigate the impact these human experiences could have on my students, peers, and fellow stakeholders. However, I also learned to include self-care as a strategy in my self-management process. I still carry those lessons with me, and I greatly appreciate the dedication and wisdom of those who work with kids in the classroom.”
Vanessa Peterson, Vice President of Human Resources
Taught grades 6-8, all subjects

During my nine years in the classroom, and my twenty years as an administrator, I learned that teachers are amazing people who care deeply about their content, their colleagues, and most importantly, their students. I learned that students (and teachers) have enormous resilience. Watching young people develop empathy and agency are experiences to be treasured. For Teacher Appreciation Week, I celebrate every teacher who has taught or is teaching, who has deepened their own resilience during and after the pandemic, and who work to build belonging for students every single day. These are heroes!”
Sherrie Raven, Director of SEL Implementation
Grades 2 and 4, grade 5 math, and kindergarten, high school, and community college English in Japan

Claire Schu, Senior Manager of SEL Implementation
Grades 7-8 history and social studies

Heather Schwartz, Practice Specialist
Grade 7 language arts

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