It’s Teacher Appreciation Week across the country, and parents are thanking those individuals who play such a huge role in the lives of their children.
We all remember the classroom teachers who helped us set goals and stretch to meet them, brought a language or ancient history to life, taught us to think in new ways, or opened our eyes to career possibilities we never contemplated.
They lent a sympathetic ear, provided encouragement when necessary, and helped us to see the value of service to others.
Behind all those teachers who spend their days in front of a classroom are countless other professionals whose work ensures that students have the necessary supports to succeed in school and in life.
That’s why, this year, CAPS, the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools, has focused attention on the unsung heroes in the schools of Bucks and Montgomery counties.
Among them are school counselors, psychologists, social workers, home and school visitors, certified school nurses, speech pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, librarians, and teachers “on assignment” performing many nontraditional tasks. The services they provide are essential to ensuring students have the support they need to succeed in school and in life as society continues to become more complex.
CAPS chose to honor four professionals, nominated by their peers and voted on by the public, as Unsung Heroes to represent the thousands of others in our region who work behind the scenes.
The grand prize winner, Jeff Klein, will receive a $2,000 grant with the other heroes receiving $1,000 grants for school projects of their choice.
Our heroes are:
● Jeff Klein – school counselor, Tamanend Middle School, Central Bucks Education Association member
● Ellen Zschunke – librarian/media specialist, Pine Road Elementary School, Lower Moreland Education Association co-president
● Jacqui Owens – social worker, Bensalem Township Education Association member;
● Katie Engelhardt – nurse, Bucks County Technical High School Education Association member
School counselor Klein is a friend, coach and mentor, who organizes fund-raising efforts and arranges for advanced learning opportunities inside and outside of school.
Zschunke’s job has expanded from librarian to media and tech specialist as well, and she produces a daily TV show with fifth graders.
Owens, a social worker, helps families with issues such as housing; keeping the heat turned on; domestic problems; drug abuse; and the loss of a family member or friend.
Engelhardt, a school nurse, sees more students for mental health issues than for any other reason. She helps to provide personal items for students in need through her “comfort closet.”
These professionals and others do so much to support students’ welfare every day.
During Teacher Appreciation Week — and all year long — we encourage you to thank the traditional and nontraditional teachers who helped make you what you are today, and who fill that role for the next generation. Without their commitment, dedication, and diligence, our schools wouldn’t be the same.
Alan M. Malachowski, a representative of the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools, is a music teacher in the North Penn School District. He is president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association-Mideastern Region.