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


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

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.

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About the Author

Jessica Lau

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


Latest Comments (0)

    My heart sank when I read Mrs Pule from Sunset Beach Elementary died. Funny, I haven't attended that school in over 45 years. Hadn't really thought about it, she was a young woman at the time, and the North Shore was a completely different place.   It's not in the acknowledging teachers are great. It is the acknowledging that there mark and influence is immeasurable. Now that I am in my mid-fifties, I find my self crying more and more when I pick up the obituaries. To see great, wonderful people I haven't thought about in years because life got in the way...having to go.    America is the only country that doesn't recognize the value and worth of education and teachers. For having a bachelor's degree, if what your paid can not even buy a home, something's not right in river city.Lee Iacoca is right.

Perseus · 3 weeks ago

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 · 3 weeks 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 · 3 weeks ago

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