Stop and Celebrate Teachers

There are two professions that EVERYONE thinks they can do and do better: politicians and teachers.


Susie Shreckhise (left) is the Augusta County 2013 Teacher of the Year

I don’t know much about being a politician but I do know not everyone can be a teacher, let alone a good teacher.

Seriously, how many people can be a teacher?

You teach the past, guide the present, and build the future.

You listen to the cries of pain, sadness, and embarrassment. You feel the abuse, hunger, and loss of the innocent.

You need to have the strength to battle germs, egos, and the expectations of parents.  While being gentle enough to comfort a 13 year-old-girl who doesn’t feel pretty.

You have to possess the optimism of the naïve, be realistic enough to know your limitations, and have the ingenuity to overcome the impossible.

You have to open the mind of a child that has been continually closed.

You have to be entertaining enough to hold the attention of 30 teenagers who stay up all night playing video games and gossiping on-line.

All while being a role model, a moral example, and an inspiration.

Your salary is barely enough to survive month to month but you have to buy pencils, papers, and three-ring binders for the children whose parents are too poor or too busy to buy them themselves.

You teach the children who know everything.  They don’t know what you repeated to them 15 times last week but they know everything.

Your feelings are never hurt and your ego is never seen.

Your voice wears down as you project to all your students but you can’t drink water or else you will need to pee. There is no time for bathrooms when you are a teacher!

Some day an adult will blame you for not knowing the tenth amendment.  Some day an adult will say you do a bad job, you manipulate minds, and you fail to teach what is important.  That adult makes four times your salary delegating work to other people but thinks you make too much money.

The curriculum gets longer, the standards get stranger, the evaluations get tougher.  Just when you figure it out, a new movement is thrust upon you, RAD, STEM, Common Core, NCLB, Smart Goals–don’t worry, the new best way to do your job is just around the corner.

Time is always your enemy.  Assemblies, pep rallies, fire drills, motivational speakers, interruption after interruption, it never stops… today the basketball team is in the regional finals, tomorrow half your class will be on a band field trip, but your lesson must stay the same.

When your whole world is crashing in and you feel like breaking down, you put a child’s needs before your own.  A trivial want, but at that moment it is the child’s entire world.

This is the job of a teacher–the job that never quits.  The job you bring home with you, the job that steals your sleep.  This is the job you cannot “take off” from.  If you cannot be there, you write hours and hours of instructions so that the whole world isn’t destroyed in your absence.  You are never absent.  You spend days upon days helping the absent, but you, you are never absent.  You are a teacher.

Trust me: not everyone can be a teacher.

The thing is, teachers are amazing.  And I am not just saying that because I am one.  This past Monday night I attended something truly amazing — a celebration of teachers.IMG_2236

In the Staunton area of the Shenandoah Valley, every year the Community Foundation and the Dawbarn family recognize 10 area educators who have “demonstrated a commitment to inspiring, encouraging, and fostering the education of young people.”

The Dawbarn Education Awards, were established in 1992 by H. Dunlop “Buz” Dawbarn.  Mr. Dawbarn wanted to celebrate exceptional individuals in the communities of Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro.  IMG_2251


This year’s winners of the Dawbarn Award are:

  • Annette Bell Bess, Cafeteria Manager, Wenonah Elementary School
  • Amy Neal Bussey, Drama & English Teacher, Stuarts Draft High School
  • Jill Watson Clark, People Places & Teacher’s Aide, Pygmalion School
  • Heather Davis, Science Teacher, Robert E. Lee High School
  • William R. Deardorff, Principal, Buffalo Gap High School
  • Carroll “CJ” Hill, Jr., English Teacher, Kate Collins Middle School
  • Susan Maxwell Jenny, AP Calculus and Engineering Teacher, Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School
  • Mary Pritchett Mawyer, Fourth Grade Teacher, Hugh K. Cassell Elementary School
  • Susie Shreckhise, Third Grade Teacher, Clymore Elementary School
  • Ruth Shaia Thompson , Special Education Teacher, Shelburne Middle School

Listening to the stories of these amazing educators was so uplifting.IMG_2228

Mary Mawyer, compared the first day of school to Christmas.  She talked about how excited she would be to return to school after the summer.  Her passion for teaching was so impressive.

CJ Hill said in his acceptance speech, “This award has inspired me to be an even better teacher.”IMG_2223

And William Dierdorf called the Dawbarn Award, “the most prestigious educational award in this area.”IMG_2245

It is a prestigious award, and the $10,000 that comes with the honor is pretty nice too. And who is more deserving than teachers?

On the way out I smiled and waved at CJ Hill in the parking lot — he had that Cheshire cat grin, that feeling of being on top of the world, that feeling of pure awesomeness.  You see, I know that feeling well. Two years ago I was humbled with the Dawbarn award myself.  Sitting in that room Monday night brought back all those same feelings — Do I really deserve this? Am I even in the same league as these other winners? There is no way I am as great as my introduction says I am.

Past winners posing for a picture

Past winners posing for a picture

I guess it is human nature to doubt yourself and feel strange about being recognized, but the thing is, teachers deserve nights like this. We work too hard; we are often taken for granted. Teachers are amazing and wonderful people and our society would not exist with out us.jill clark dawbarn

H. Dunlop “Buz” Dawbarn was born June 14, 1915 in New York City. After earning a degree in political science from Princeton and studying engineering at Johns Hopkins, Mr. Dawbarn founded Dawbarn Brothers in Waynesboro, now known as Wayne-Tex.  While Mr. Dawbarn experienced professional success, it was his philanthropic and community contributions for which he is best known.  Since the establishment of this fund in 1992, the Community Foundation has presented 195 awards totaling $1.236 million… Thank you Buz Dawbarn! — Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge.IMG_2240




  1. mary mawyer says:

    It was truly an amazing night. I felt like a celebrity and was honored to receive this prestigious award just like you were. So many wonderful educators work hard every day to make the difference in the life of a child. The Dawbarn family and the Community Foundation are to be commended for their efforts to make this award a reality. Thank you for taking the time to write your thoughts.

  2. Teachers are often not recognized for the amazing people that they are. Mary is right, so many educators work hard to make a difference and our society does more degrading of our teachers than they do celebrating them.

  3. Mary, I agree the Dawbarn family and the Community Foundation cannot be thanked enough. Thank you for being an inspiration!

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