A teacher holiday message from UEA President Heidi Matthews


"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." - William Butler Yeats

American Education WeekDear Fellow Educators,

This holiday season I want to share the incredible gift that my son gave to me last weekend when he graduated from college. No, it wasn't his diploma, although that is pretty stunning. And no, he didn't shave for the event (alas). His gift was a lightning bolt reminder of the importance of the work we do as teachers and our sometimes delayed, but enduring impact.

Had Conor's teachers been evaluated based on his performance in junior high and high school...well, let's say it wouldn't have been pretty. If our home would have been graded as schools are, I fear that Charlie and I would have been labeled as "turnaround" parents based on our son's grades and test scores. Like you do every day, we didn't give up. We persevered...as teachers and as a family. 

Last Saturday, the program at Montana State University listed my son's name with a beautiful asterisk next to it. Conor graduated with honors. 

His gift to me - to us all - is the reminder that our efforts as teachers often take time to fully ignite, but are never EVER futile. Our influence is more far-reaching in the sparks we fuel in our students than what could ever be measured in the finite time they are in our classroom. The teachers imprinted on my son's heart saw potential in him, believed in his goodness and treated him with dignity. With vivid recall, Conor reflected on the teachers whose voices lingered with him long after he finished high school and long before he truly recognized their influence.

As you prepare for the holidays, build time to relax and be rejuvenated. Carve out time to rest and be with the people you love. Always know that while there may be times you question and second guess yourself as a teacher, there are countless former students like my son for whom you laid the kindling for the fire. Our blessings abound.

Happy holidays,

Heidi Matthews
UEA President



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