While Wednesday night's Golden Apple Awards ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of 20 educators in the Green Bay area, it also taught us a lesson.
If you listened to their speeches, read their stories or watched their Press-Gazette Media videos, you learned that the Green Bay area is lucky to have such inspirational, humble and innovative educators. And they represent a fraction of the excellent teachers in the area.
These are professionals who have endured unwarranted criticism over the last several years - from being scapegoated as the reason behind the state's financial woes to facing uncertainty over their jobs in the wake of Act 10 - and yet they continue to do excellent work.
The teachers in the Green Bay area continue to do a job that won't make them rich but is essential to our state, our world. Educated citizens are vital to society and a democracy. The education students receive from kindergarten through 12th grade represents the building blocks for a productive, informed adult.
It's not an easy job, either. Many of us don't have the patience to deal daily with the myriad challenges a classroom full of students can present.
Yet these teachers take on those challenges every day, often becoming an influence in a student's life. Many teachers were influenced by educators.
Of the "big influences in my life, teachers played a big role," said technology education teacher Aaron Pokrzywa, who received a Golden Apple this year. "They had an influence on me and I wanted to have an influence on students in a similar way."
English teacher and Golden Apple recipient Jennifer Ditzman echoed those sentiments in her video. "You do this because you care about students. ? It's really about being that guide in their life that helps them make choices and think about what it is to be a good human being."
It's remarkable the number of lives touched by these educators. Instrumental music teacher and Golden Apple recipient Kevin Van Ess estimated he has taught more than 10,000 kids how to play a musical instrument in his 28 years of teaching.
That's something to brag about.
But you're not likely to hear any boasting. The one thread that ran through all of their stories and videos was one of humility. These educators often deflected praise, giving credit to their administrators, fellow teachers and students. It makes you realize the support system necessary to educate our children
While we thank and honor the six teachers and two teams who received Golden Apple Awards, we also thank the other educators who receive no recognition but provide a quality education.