In our front-page article, Trent Thomas reports on current plans for the school district to build tiny houses for teachers. In part, this is a response to the difficulty of teachers not being able to afford housing in the communities where they teach. Underscoring this point is an article by Karen Schutte on page 5 where she writes that “This area is experiencing record high demand by the region’s homebuilders due to the natural aesthetics, Vail School District, and the pace and pricing power over the past few years.”
The intersection of high housing costs and demand along with low teacher pay means that many teachers find themselves unable to continue teaching, not only in Vail but in all of Arizona. It is ironic that the quality of education and teachers in Vail draws home buyers that result in increased demand that ultimately raises prices that teachers cannot afford. As Stacy Winstryg reports (on page 13) “When Arizona voters were polled last year by Expect More Arizona… 86 percent believed that teacher salaries are too low.” Perhaps because of this, there will be increased education spending in Governor Ducey’s budget.
While this is good news for Vail and the school district, there are other ways in which we can support our schools and teachers, regardless if you support tiny house plans or not. Some of our well known area organizations already have programs to assist students in Vail (and this issue reports on some of these), such as the American Legion Post 109, Vail Parent Network, Cienega Rotary, Voyager RV Resort, Vail Preservation Society, and ReSources Food Bank.
These organizations serve as a reminder of the positive impact like-minded individuals can have on a community. Additionally, as the Vail Parent Network, encourages, volunteering in the classroom is an excellent way to help teachers and students.
As Trent concludes in his article, regarding teachers, “It is only their positive attitudes and work ethic that keeps them pushing on in their careers.” This past week, I met with a school district employee and we discussed some of the above-mentioned concerns, with a focus on soliciting volunteers and substitute teachers. In our discussion, I shared the story of one teacher that I will always remember. Ms. Ruth Eaton was my 5th grade teacher. She tolerated no shenanigans or malarkey, of any sort. She was firm but kind. She was tough, but went the extra
mile to reach her students, finding creative ways to engage them. She was a senior citizen in my 5th grade mind, but years later when I looked at her photo, I realized she was in her mid-30’s. She had students pick a project for the entire school year. My project was on the NASA missions of the time, specifically, Project Gemini. At the end of the year, I received a certificate, (seen below).
In all honesty, that certificate meant more to me and impacted me more that the graduate degrees I later earned, especially so as I held back in the 2nd grade and was the first in my entire extended family to go beyond high school (after dropping out, as did all my siblings). In fact, there was a time when I had only this certificate on my wall in my office. It just might be my most valuable award. It was, and still is, a physical reminder that a teacher once believed in me and encouraged me. While it was not the last award or certificate, it was the first, and I will always cherish it and the teacher whose dedication and skill made a difference in my life.
Years later, when I was in my late 20’s, I wanted to find Ms. Eaton (I was unsuccessful). I wanted to let her know the value to me of this simple award. I wanted to surprise her with my other degrees and accomplishments. As time passes, and I have learned more about life, I suspect Ms. Eaton might not have been surprised after all.
To all the dedicated Ms. and Mr. Eaton’s, thank you.