To celebrate Teacher Appreciation week (May 2–6), TFK Kid Reporter Ethan Zhang spoke with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, in Washington, D.C.
1. What role does a teacher play in a kid’s life?
Teachers shape lives. They help us develop who we are as people. I’m happy that we can pause for a part of the year to acknowledge what teachers do. But we should be appreciating them every day.
2. Who was an important teacher in your life?
One was Mr. O’Neill. I remember drawing a football helmet in his art class. I loved football. Talk about engaging assignments! Mr. O’Neill was the first male teacher I had, and he was a Black teacher. I looked up to him and thought, “Maybe I could be like Mr. O’Neill.”
3. What do teachers need to do their jobs well?
They need to feel respected for what they do. Ethan, I bet if you feel welcomed by your classmates and teachers, you’re going to give it your best, right? If we respect educators and value what they do, I know they’ll continue to thrive.
4. What challenges has the pandemic brought?
Teachers have dealt with school opening and closing. They’ve had students who didn’t have a computer, or who were hungry, or had lost family members to the pandemic. And they faced these challenges while taking care of their own families.
5. Have schools been able to honor teachers?
Bringing together the whole school isn’t always possible. But I’ve visited schools where bands marched in the hallways to celebrate. I’ve seen teachers treated to desserts in the staff lounge. Schools have found ways to honor teachers.
6. How can students show appreciation?
The best gift, when I was teaching fourth grade, was when students gave their best, and cared for one another. When students do well and show a sense of community—that’s the best way to honor a teacher.
7. I agree. My friends and I try to do that.
You know, once I had a student who would bring in a guitar and serenade the class. Teachers appreciate things like that.
8. What would you like to say to teachers?
I want to say thank you. I’m going to make sure we continue to support our teachers, and make sure they realize that in Washington, D.C., there’s a teacher here fighting for them.