Year of the Teacher

2015: Year of the Teacher

When I first heard that this week is National Teacher Appreciation Week my immediate reaction was, “What about the other 51 weeks of the year!” I believe that our US Teacher-force is perhaps the single most important resource that we have and we as a nation ought to be celebrating and investing in our teachers.

There are 3.75 million K-12 teachers in the US (3.1 million public school teachers, 72,000 charter, 437,000 private, 146,000 Catholic school teachers). Education Reform shows an average student-teacher ratio of 16 students per teacher. This number seems low but it is a fine starting point for my argument.

To begin, let’s consider one elementary school teacher, out of the 1.708 million. Let’s assume she teachers fourth grade, has 16 students per class and teaches for 30 years, from age 25-55. That equates to 480 students in a career. Now, let’s look deeper.

A typical US school calendar is made up of 180 days- in 36 weeks. If you assume the school day starts at 7:00 and goes to 2:40, but an hour and 40 minutes are lost to lunch and other breaks, there are 360 minutes (6 hours) of instruction per day. In other words, a teacher has 64,800 opportunities for 60-second impressions with every child! Now going back to our 480 students, consider that our teacher is actually creating 31,104,000 60-second impressions in her career.

Next, lets consider cost. The national average for our K-12 teachers is $45,000 a year. Unlike other professions, there is comparatively little on-going, employer-paid professional development. So, when we look at the cost per impression for the 31,104,000 impressions, and compare it to those of other industries, it is very low.

Of course, one would say that the television commercial reaches more people. But while a commercial reaches many people, a teacher, as we see, reaches some people many times. Both have significant impact.

Now, of course, there are a million complexities that my back-of-a-napkin math is not considering, but what jumps out at me is our collective lack of quantitative focus on the impact that teachers have on our nation.

Our teachers literally are shaping our children and our future every minute! Wouldn’t it make economic sense to invest more in them? For example, why don’t we provide them with modern technology that allows them to be their best? Why don’t we have on-going professional development for teachers that is filled with the latest research from cognitive and learning sciences. And why don’t we as a nation celebrate them up as our most valued profession? In short, what would it take for us as a nation to dedicate 2015 to be the Year of the Teacher?

These questions ought to be the subject for a national panel. If you would like to ask and answer these questions with me, please shoot me an email at

Together, I hope that we can turn the tide. Let’s give our teachers the recognition and appreciation that they deserve EVERY minute of the year.

Picture “Teacher Appreciation Cupcakes” by Clever Cupcakes, Some Rights Reserved

Co-Founder and Managing Partner of IT'S ABOUT TIME®, Laurie developed IAT's publishing direction with National Science Foundation-supported math, engineering and science curricula, overseeing Strategic Planning and Marketing.