The members of the Texas Senate are a blend of backgrounds and experiences. A dozen professions are represented, including ten attorneys, one firefighter, a handful of businessmen, and one physician. When we convene for the next session in January, I can proudly claim my profession as a former public school teacher.
Across the state, approximately five million young Texans are gearing up for the new school year. Almost 330,000 teachers are busy preparing for their arrival. Having stocked classrooms, put up bulletin boards, and written lesson plans, I understand the work being done behind-the-scenes. While students are doing their back-to-school shopping, many teachers pull from their own pockets to create the best learning environment for their students.
As the grandmother of children in our public schools, I am constantly reminded that we are blessed with wonderful teachers who have the ability to ignite young minds and help them reach their potential. I must admit my bias. Two of my own daughters are teachers, as are both of my sons-in-law. Every year, I look forward to helping them to ready their classrooms because it reminds me of the excitement and anticipations that teachers experience when school begins.
It also allows me to spend time with some of our teachers in a relaxed setting. Talking with them about their goals and challenges renews my respect and admiration for those who have dedicated themselves to educating our children. Texas teachers represent the backbone of our school system — and we cannot take their work for granted.
Their responsibilities go far beyond the contents of any textbook. Educators must be both disciplinarian and diplomat. It isn’t easy to sit down with parents and tell them their child is falling behind. Maintaining order is an enormous challenge. And the lessons taught in those every-day classroom experiences stay with children for life. In fact, I’ve often pointed out to my Senate colleagues what I used to tell my students: if two people are talking at the same time, that means someone isn’t listening.
Teachers help shape the future goals of the next generation of Texans. And they instill values that serve their students for life.
I encourage our community to take a moment to reflect on the outstanding educators in our community. North Texas is blessed to have some of the state’s best school districts. Our students consistently perform at higher levels than other parts of the state.
My mother taught me the most important lessons of my life. She told me that education is more precious than gold. It never loses its value. And no one can ever take it away from you.
This is a critical time for public education in Texas, and we will face challenges when the Legislature reconvenes in January. It was an honor to be appointed recently to the Joint Committee to Study School Finance, which has met twice already in pursuit of reforms to our school system.
But we must remember that parents and teachers have the greatest potential to impact the life of a child. When families and educators are working together, the possibilities are endless.
To set Texas students on a path to success, we need parents to be involved. We need to support our teachers, help them restore discipline in the classroom and respect their authority and judgment. Most importantly, we need our students to learn that success has to be earned.
I want to warmly wish all of our teachers a happy back-to-school — and to thank you for your committed service to our community’s children.
Senator Jane Nelson represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services.