Op-Eds

City's great teachers know how to make a difference

Intelligence, dedication and keen sense of humor all important, but desire to help others is paramount

[This op-ed piece was originally published in the Daily News.]

Ask what makes a great teacher, and you will get a long list of “must-haves”: intelligence, dedication, knowledge of the subject matter, a keen sense of humor.

But anyone who has spent any time in the classroom knows that those ingredients mean very little without the essential spark — a desire to make a difference in children’s lives.

I saw that in my neighborhood on Staten Island after Superstorm Sandy flooded portions of New York City. Teachers whose own homes were destroyed were concerned first with helping students who had lost theirs.

Whether it was distributing food and clothing, walking darkened neighborhoods to make sure their students’ families were safe, or turning undamaged schools into emergency centers for entire neighborhoods, what I heard from teachers and school staff across the city was the same: How can I help?

How can I make a difference for my students?

Teachers show that spark, that desire to make a difference, every day in New York City schools, whether it is creating a safe haven for the students to thrive, helping homeless children feel part of a larger community or creating a way for kids to go to college even when they think they can’t.

Students recognize this not-so-secret ingredient in great teachers. “My teacher cares about me,” is how children describe it.

Teachers and school staff do their work and don’t look for praise. They are in it for their students. That is why a program such as Hometown Heroes in Education is so important. It is a way to simply say “Thank You” to a bunch of people who don’t hear that enough.

So to our own Hometown Heroes: Thank You.

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