Let’s Treat Teachers As If They Are The Best Of Us - Honolulu Civil Beat

Power local, independent journalism with a gift today and help us reach our goal of $250,000 by December 31.

Thanks to 738 donors, we've raised $108,000 so far!


Power local, independent journalism with a gift today and help us reach our goal of $250,000 by December 31.

Thanks to 738 donors, we've raised $108,000 so far!


About the Author

Jessica Lau

Jessica Lau is an undergraduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

As we draw to a hopeful close of the COVID-19 pandemic, we see our loved ones receive their first doses of the vaccine with gratitude. We take time to reflect on all that is happening within the chaotic lives of many.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of our own mental health, uncovered how healthy and sustainable our ways of living are, and questioned the role we play in the current moment and in our futures.

It has been this time of mindfulness that has allowed us to see if our values sustain us, despite the hate, despair and pain that we have seen manifested in too many places over the past year.

In the middle of my undergraduate journey at the University of ​Hawaii Manoa, I recognize the value and importance of the many teachers who help foster radical change, who inspire and support our every action and who are just as essential as the scientists who have worked tirelessly to bring this pandemic under control.

I would like you to think about your favorite teacher. Mine, in particular, holds a special place in my heart. You know how we had those coloring exercises in elementary school? And how the color shines so boldly when you press it firmly on the paper?

I remember breaking my favorite crayon, the color cerulean, in this exact way. It was so upsetting at the time. All I could focus on was how much frustration I felt. The loss overwhelmed me. But my teacher taught me to wrap tape around that crayon and keep coloring. Keep creating.

A Hawaiian language immersion kindergarten teacher helps students at Paia Elementary in February 2020, before the pandemic hit. April Estrellon/Civil Beat/2020

This pandemic is our shattering point. It is a time where we recognize our values. Our parents. Our grandparents. Our loved ones. Seeing our friends at school. Working and bantering with our coworkers. And not only our values but our necessities. Agonizing over our next paycheck. If and when we’ll have one. Struggling for food. Shelter. Life.

My favorite teacher taught me that the things that we hold dear — our values — are not our weaknesses. Instead, they are our strengths. They are our passion to speak up for the issues that face us. They are our effort to keep going. They are our hope for what is yet to come.

We can make change happen. The first step is to acknowledge that. After we feel the pain, the hurt and despair that comes with seeing our values disrespected, we must ask ourselves this: What are we going to do about it?

For me, I know I must persevere. Breathe. We all need to consciously do that. And in doing so, recognize the importance of not only our values but our teachers and our role models. They have done so much for us.

Will we do the same for them? Will we acknowledge their effort and dedication? Will we speak out against the injustices that are done to them? Their 60-70 hour work weeks and inadequate wages? In this time of need, educators have transitioned to virtual classes, have put their own health at risk transitioning back and have spent countless hours and meetings to keep attendance and participation up in their schools.

They believe in our past. They believe in our present. They believe in our future. They believe in us. Let’s demonstrate that we believe in them and their right to be justly compensated for their dedication that is too often inadequately recognized.

As Lee Iaccoca once said, “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less.” Our lawmakers need to be sure to treat our teachers in a way that acknowledges that they and the institutions they work in are indeed the best of us. Our lawmakers need to be sure that our schools are a place of growth for our keiki’s pursuit of education every day.

Because our teachers hold in their hands the promise of what we will become. I am grateful.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

Read this next:

Hawaii's Agriculture Development Agency Needs To Be A Priority For Lawmakers

Local reporting when you need it most

Support timely, accurate, independent journalism.

Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization, and your donation helps us produce local reporting that serves all of Hawaii.


About the Author

Jessica Lau

Jessica Lau is an undergraduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Latest Comments (0)

All of the money going to the Hawaii Tourism Authority (at one time it was about $80 million a year) should be re-allocated to increase the salaries of classroom teachers in the public schools.  The teaching profession should attract the best and brightest.

sleepingdog · 2 years ago

Teachers shape and mold us, sometimes more than our own parents. Teachers were my refuge, sanctuary from difficulties at home. They deserve to be compensated accordingly. They deserve to be treated with the utmost dignity. I hope this article creates the ripple effect we need to see change. Such a timely piece, Jessica. Thank you for sharing.

krissilva · 2 years ago

Having worked in the education field for a time, and having friends currently in this field, I can say with certainty this op-ed is spot-on.For any one who doubts the difficulty of this job, just keep in mind there's a shortage of teachers for a reason. Same with a shortage of police officers, and certain types of doctors here in Hawaii. The shortage is not because the job is "too easy" or "overly compensated" either.To expand on another commenter's point, our military is the most powerful in the world. We out-spend any other country relative to our military and get such a result. We're not short on service members or supplies (and rightfully so). Imagine if we treated education the same way relative to public investment and funding.

basic_citizen123 · 2 years ago

Join the conversation


IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.


You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.