The 49ers and Symetra, a diversified financial services company based in Bellevue, Washington, teamed up to highlight local teachers who are making a difference in the classroom. Symetra’s “Heroes in the Classroom” is a community program that recognizes 16 Bay Area teachers for outstanding leadership and instructional skills. Who are these hero teachers? They are the teachers who go beyond day-to-day responsibilities and help students build life skills along with their academic accomplishments.
We in Santa Clara are fortunate to have one such hero right in our own back yard. Barbara Kelly is a 7th grade teacher at St. Justin School and was one of the 16 teachers to receive this prestigious award.
Sabrina Fraker-Werthman, parent of a 7th grader at St. Justin School, nominated Barb Kelly in a lengthy letter praising her benevolence and perspicuity. “Mrs. Kelly has the most amazing gift to make every person she comes in contact with feel like the most important person in the world. She has the ability to point out the positive in every student to help him or her grow,” she stated. “When confidence starts to diminish, she finds the diamond in each and every student and gives (each student) the tools to shine…She shows her students that there is more to life than the grade on the paper – that her students’ success is not measured in test scores but in happiness, inclusion and in the amazing young adults that they will become.”
This honor also came with lots of tangible amenities, including a $1,000 donation to Mrs. Kelly’s classroom, two tickets to a 49ers game, recognition on the new “Faithful Mile” stage prior to the game and a VIP tour of the 49ers Museum.
The school also had the special treat of surprising their beloved teacher. During morning assembly on Dec. 7th, all the students and staff sat quietly listening to Principal Suty impart the day’s announcements when from the back of the gymnasium in walked a representative from the 49ers followed by two perky, pom-pom shaking cheerleaders to present Mrs. Kelly with her award. The rambunctious applause and squeaky “hoorays” from the students, ranging in age from five to 14 was electric. Mrs. Kelly was very visibly flabbergasted. “This award was a total surprise, and easily one of the best moments in my professional career,” She said. “I am incredibly honored to have been nominated, and grateful to receive recognition for something I love to do. The best part was being presented with the award in front of all my students, who were so excited and proud. Without them, their parents, and the support of my school, I would not have had this amazing opportunity.”
At a time when so many hardworking teachers go unrecognized, it was inspiring to see prestige and even a little monetary respect granted to someone in the education profession. Teaching may be one of the most fulfilling professions, but it is also one of the most undervalued. American teachers have been historically paid far less than other professions with comparable education requirements. Couple that with pundits and politicians blaming teachers for unsatisfactory test scores, unruly children, or any other blot on society.
Symetra and the 49ers should be commended for their acknowledgement and appreciation of our hardworking educators, and our leaders in schools, in communities, and in Congress should lead by their example.
Contact Margaret Lavin at email@example.com.