A Love Letter to Michigan Teachers

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May 9, 2023

As we begin the month of May, I would like to take the opportunity to send a huge “THANK YOU” to the extraordinary teachers in Michigan who tirelessly help their students and communities flourish, grow and succeed in school and far beyond!

Teaching is rewarding, fulfilling, hard, exhausting, exciting, frustrating, beautiful and overwhelming all at the same time. But arguably, teaching is one of the MOST important professions! No other profession influences as many people as teaching does.

Teachers provide students with the power and opportunity to be good citizens, to be great leaders, to work hard and to reach their fullest potentials. Educators have a vital role to play in society. We are dedicated to the betterment of our world, and the important work we do every day in our classrooms matters! Don’t forget that! We as educators have the great privilege to use our positive influence to make a lifelong impact on our students by forging safe, positive, inclusive relationships with our students. 

You just never know the impact that you will have on students. You may NEVER have a student come back and tell you about the impact you made. Just know YOU ARE IMPACTING PEOPLE THROUGH THIS IMPORTANT WORK EVERY DAY!!

Like many of you, I had several wonderful teachers who had a huge impact on me and the trajectory of my life, teachers who took the time to get to know me and forge a positive relationship with me. They made sure that I knew they were there for me and were available to talk if I needed to. The fact that those teachers forged a meaningful relationship with me and genuinely cared about me made me want to offer that same kind of support, encouragement and relationship to other kids.

Let me share one positive story of my fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Ken Benson. He was the most amazing teacher! There were so many reasons I loved going into Mr. Benson’s classroom, but I’ll share just a few. 

First, he LOVED music! Guess what? So did I!  He used it as part of his teaching experiences, and I was all in. He didn’t have to do much more for me to be totally invested in my fifth-grade year. He exposed us to different musical opportunities; he played music and gave us the chance to experience new and exciting musical instruments. He was also my very first male teacher, and he used a POSITIVE reward system, rather than a punitive system. Of course, I did not know the educational terms for this type of teaching, but I did know that I felt SAFE, appreciated, valued and supported in that room with Mr. Benson. Thank you, Mr. Benson.

Many of you may have similar experiences where a teacher felt like the sun, and you were drawn to their warmth. So, BE that SUNSHINE for someone, this is your opportunity.

When I look back on my education, I am drawn to the positive stories that I had with my own teachers, and I use them to drive the way I run my classroom. I want kids to feel safe and included, and know that they are an important part of our classroom community. I want to create a culture of acceptance and love in our building, allowing students to see positive modeling of empathy, inclusion and leadership. 

I want to encourage teachers to make an intentional effort to keep building those safe, inclusive relationships with students. Relationships that put students’ mental health first and prioritize their health and wellbeing. Relationships that give students the ability to know and interact with a positive adult who they understand cares about them. We have the great privilege of using our influence to positively impact our students in a way that builds their capacity to believe in themselves and their abilities to be successful in school and in life. 

Teachers, you are the cornerstone of society, and your influence is never ending! Even though teaching can sometimes be hard, and feel like a thankless profession, your impact is far reaching, and paraphrasing the words of Henry Adams, “A teacher affects eternity; one can never tell where their influence stops.” I want to thank you for spreading your light and joy to students and I hope you know that you’re appreciated and so very important. THANK YOU!
About Nanette Hanson: I am a proud teacher with 20-plus years of varied teaching experiences in several teaching positions, from alternative high school through first grade. I work each day to build safe and supportive relationships that help kids grow and flourish while embracing each child’s needs and individuality. As Michigan Teacher of the Year 2022-23, I will strive to continue to build relationships with educational stakeholders to work toward building systems that better offer equitable, inclusive educational opportunities for all students across Michigan.