One does not choose to teach because of the money. A teacher teaches because of the pleasure he or she derives from seeing growth in their young charges. Any student, properly motivated, can learn how to write better, how to read more efficiently, and how to deal with fairly complex quantitative problems.

It takes a special teacher, however, to do all the above and, in addition, to help young people navigate the complex social issues that come hand in hand with adolescence. When you get both of those qualities in a teacher or a coach, you have someone worth their weight in gold. Rather than gold, however, a simple thank-you letter, written even years after you graduate, will do the job.

I write from personal experience, as I was just visited by three of my former players on a championship hockey team from 1984. A day not soon forgotten. A day filled with “Remember when … ” A day filled with laughter, and joy.

These three men, now well into their 50s, gave this old man a special gift. I was told in different ways that I had made a difference in their lives. Everyone wants to make a difference. Many do just that, but few are told unequivocally that they have made that difference.

So, while teachers do not teach because of the salaries and signing bonuses, they do welcome getting affirmation that they have made a difference. And you, or your son or daughter can do so by simply saying, “Thank you.”

Bill Matthews

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