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Teacher Appreciation Week: Lessons in Gratitude for MT

May 6, 2011

MILES CITY, Mont. - Teacher Appreciation Week wraps up today in Montana and nationwide - a lesson in gratitude that often goes both ways. Students, parents and community members take time to salute educators for their dedication to children, and teachers share "thank yous" for those acts of kindness.

Mona Bilden, a reading specialist who works with children in kindergarten through third grade in Miles City, gives an example.

"I got a little knock on my door, and this little girl walked in and here's this little crumpled, folded-up piece of paper. I opened it up: 'You are awesome.' Just made my day."

Bilden says that kind of moment helps her get past recent verbal attacks on teachers in Montana and elsewhere. Teachers are being asked to do more and more with fewer resources, Bilden says, while politicians target teachers as the problem - whether it be related to budgets or other topics.

Bilden has spent many sleepless nights wondering how to help with reading struggles among students who sometimes are dealing with other issues, such as hunger. She volunteers as a tutor during summer break to further help students with reading, and wishes educators would receive more support for the good they do.

"Very hurtful statements being made right now, especially for people who ... it's not just a job, it is our career."

National Education Association statistics show that Montana teacher salaries are consistently among the lowest 10 states in the nation, while Montana's student test scores are among the nation's highest. The NEA's "Rankings and Estimates," National Assessment of Educational Progress, is online at nea.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT