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Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week

If my children were to ask their elementary school friends what they want to be when they grow up, many would say a quarterback, a rock star, or the president.

There is also a role model they see every day who may not be as prominent, but who is ultimately more important in their lives: their classroom teachers.

This is Teacher Appreciation Week. A year ago at this time, I wrote about the measurable differences great teachers can make in students’ lives, and about the immeasurable difference my high school literature teacher, Mrs. Dubbeldam, made in my life.

  • While there are many Mrs. Dubbeldams making a difference in classrooms around the world, times have changed since I was a child.
  • When I was a child, we were a fairly homogeneous lot. Today, students increasingly reflect a variety of life experiences, with each needing individualized attention, but also needing to share their teachers’ attention with as many as 30 classmates.
  • When I was a budding scholar, all the information I needed to write a research paper was down the hallway in the library. Today, most information is “in the cloud,” and not measured in pages but in petabytes.
  • When I turned in a paper to Mrs. Dubbeldam, I probably didn’t appreciate all the hours it took her to correct and coach my classmates and me. If Mrs. Dubbeldam were still teaching today, she’d probably have new stack of essays on her desk, each calling out for her endless patience and attention.

Giving Teachers Superpowers

It is in the spirit of timeless educational values, combined with the promise of innovative technologies, that the team at ACT is developing a new ed-tech ecosystem to give our great teachers some long-sought superpowers.

  • Through measurement seamlessly integrated with instruction, we can increasingly identify exactly where each student is – and what he or she needs to learn next.
  • Through open educational resources, we are providing a world’s worth of information to kids and classrooms, at lower cost – and ranked by how well the resources actually work.
  • Through advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing and related technologies, we can increasingly use the power of “computational psychometrics” to complement the uniquely human skills of our very best teachers.
In short, there may be no more exciting time to be a teacher – but unfortunately, not enough students are on that career path.

According to ACT’s 2018 Condition of College and Career Readiness report, only 4 percent of ACT test-takers who graduated from high school last year plan to be a teacher, a percentage that will make our current shortage worse – with a projected shortfall of 100,000 teachers by 2021.

How do we address this shortage? Again, according to our Condition report, we need to:

  • Give educators the resources they need to improve educational outcomes.
  • Increase funding for schools and education.
  • Provide plentiful professional development opportunities so that teachers may improve their craft and enhance their impact.
  • And elevate the teaching profession, with higher salaries and greater levels of respect, to attract talented new instructors to the occupation.
It may be hard to convince a fourth grader there’s more satisfaction in working side-by-side with a student than front-and-center in a stadium or on stage, but while sports and entertainment can fill a few hours, it’s educators who create fulfilling lives.

During this Teacher’s Appreciation Week, I’d like to thank the:

  • Many educators and former teachers who work for ACT
  • Yesterday’s teachers, whose talent and tenacity are reflected in the people each of us are today
  • Today’s teachers, who give so much of themselves to shape the next generation, and
  • Tomorrow’s teachers who, by combining enduring educational values with innovative ideas, have the potential to enhance learning in ways we can barely imagine
To the teachers reading this article, and those thinking about joining the profession, thank you for your important work. Your contributions truly last a lifetime.

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ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Grounded in 60 years of research, ACT is a trusted leader in college and career readiness solutions. Each year, ACT serves millions of students, job seekers, schools, government agencies and employers in the US and around the world with learning resources, assessments, research and credentials designed to help them succeed from elementary school through career. To learn more, visit us at