As a proud 2001 graduate of the Tupper Lake school system, it is because of the teachers I had that I became an educator myself. Through my experiences in our school district, including all of the extracurricular activities I was fortunate enough to experience, I fell in love with learning, continued my education and ultimately pursued a career in teaching. I can only hope that I have the same impact on my students that my teachers had on me.
I currently work as a grade 7-12 English language arts teacher within the Long Lake Central School District. I am finishing up my third year there and feel fortunate to have a job that offers me the chance to live in the Tri-Lakes area and is a profession that I love. Throughout my time in our region, as a kid and an adult, the one thing that's always remained a constant is that people take care of each other, especially when they are down and out.
So it is with great disappointment that I have read and heard comments from community members who feel the teachers of Tupper Lake "don't care about their students" or that they're "only in it for the money" and that if coaches cared, "they'd put more time in." These statements could not be further from the truth. If there is any doubt in your mind about this, please spend a day at the L.P. Quinn or at the Tupper Lake Middle/High School, or ride a bus to Canton on a Wednesday night in the middle of January for a basketball game, and take a firsthand look at all the ways that the teachers of your district go above and beyond to ensure your children not only make it through each day successfully but also navigate through high-stakes tests, tragedies, celebrations and anything else the world throws their way.
After the Newtown tragedy, I received a note from a parent that had a tremendous impact on me.
She wrote, "What happened this past week in CT made me stop and hold my breath. Such a little town, just like us. So many little children, just like us. It's important for you all to know how important you are to my child. You are with him more daytime hours in a week than I am and I don't thank you enough."
No teacher expects parents to thank us for what we do. We do what we do because we love it and we want to make a difference in the world in any small way that we can. My experience in Tupper Lake schools showed me how teachers and coaches care about their students beyond the classroom walls. As a teacher, I hold myself to high standards because it's what I know. It's what was modeled for me from pre-K to graduation day.
I can recall in vivid detail a variety of transformative experiences and moments from L.P. Quinn through middle and high school. My class was one of the first to go through the newly formed middle school, and the teachers were the ones who cultivated a space where seventh- and eighth-graders could build confidence and friendships. (This was when Holy Ghost Academy was open, so we had new seventh graders to meet.) Regardless of where you were in our schools, the opportunities to learn and grow were always there because the teachers put in the time, effort and care to offer it. It's because of Mr. Grulich that I even passed the biology Regents. He offered after-school help and evening study sessions, and when he shared my score with me, I truly believe he was more excited about it than I was (and I was pretty darn ecstatic). At the end of the school year when I am handing out my English Regents exam to 11th-graders, I am reminded of Mr. Grulich, and I try and pass on that same type of motivation and encouragement to my students.
The list of teachers who offered this type of enthusiasm, dedication, professionalism and expertise is too long for me to list in a single letter. But the bottom line is that they did care, all of them, and the teachers of Tupper Lake continue to care. That's the kind of people our district provides for its students because that's the kind of town that Tupper Lake is - always has been and will continue to be.
So my point in sharing this letter with you is to simply say this: Times are tough in public schools everywhere, especially in the North Country. Our enrollments are down, state aid is being slashed, mandates continue to be forced on us, jobs are dwindling, and on and on. You've all heard it, and many of you have lived and continue to live it firsthand. The same type of budget fears and standard stressors exist at Sunmount, Adirondack Medical Center, the prisons and a variety of other businesses, public and private, that serve at the pleasure of the economy. These are tough times; no one can argue that. However, it's times like these that call for us to treat each other the way Tupper Lakers do, and that's with care. It's not time to kick people who are giving their all when they're down. It's time to pitch in and figure it out together. It's time to make it work the best possible way for the taxpayers, the school district and, most importantly, the kids. And it's really time to turn the tables on Jacques Barzun's comment, "Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition."
Noelle Short lives in Lake Placid.