Before coming to Arkansas PBS, I spent several years as an educator at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) teaching about Alzheimer’s disease and how family and professional caregivers can help improve the quality of life of those with this incurable disease. In this role, I saw the unique challenges caregivers face, including difficult behaviors and memory loss that can erase time and may leave a person with Alzheimer’s working backward so that he or she only remembers childhood. I also learned that, throughout life, continued exposure to new things creates additional neuron pathways in the brain that help Alzheimer’s patients achieve a better quality of life, even when so much is confusing and frightening. I applauded caregivers for their selfless roles and stressed to them that - every time they shared a smile or taught their loved one a new activity - they had done something remarkable and noble by helping someone so vulnerable.
That chapter in my life gave me a deep respect for everyone who chooses a noble career that makes such a deep and profound impact on people. When given an opportunity to lead a team at Arkansas PBS that produces professional development courses for Arkansas teachers, I eagerly accepted because I saw that this role allowed me to support a collective body of professional difference-makers who also have a deep and profound impact on others. I understand the importance and impact teachers have and, in this role, I am fortunate that I get to play a small part. You prepare children for careers and to be productive citizens, but you also model the importance of authentic, trustworthy human connection – a basic need that is critical at every stage of life, be it for a kindergarten student learning her ABC’s or an Alzheimer’s patient in the twilight of life.
Thank you for being there every school day for kids who need a familiar face and a safe place where they can have a sense of belonging.
Thank you for welcoming and teaching students who show up each day with unique life experiences, cultures, abilities and challenges.
Thank you for being someone who understands the importance of positive communication practices by providing smiles, eye contact and active listening.
Thank you for being someone who teaches new concepts and new subjects that help minds become healthy and who positions children to achieve in so many ways throughout life.
Thank you for your sacrifices and for being someone who often puts your own needs aside to care for the children who need you.
On Teacher Appreciation Day, I thank you for being both a teacher of subjects, concepts and information but, also, for having the heart and soul of a caregiver.