National Teacher of the Year’s Inspiring Message for Students: “We hear you. We value you. We respect you.”

Educators inspire. They stretch us beyond what we think we can do. They get us to think in different ways. They show us what is possible. Every single one of us can remember that teacher who made the difference in our own lives.

Ohio shows no shortage of educators who inspire. In fact, once again, Ohio has another educator earning national recognition. This year, it’s History Teacher Kurt Russell from Oberlin.

Here’s a rundown of what Russell said about education and students:

  • Our world is diverse which means that our educators should be, too. Russell, who has taught at Oberlin Schools in Ohio for 25 years, wanted to become a teacher from the time he was in elementary school. He was inspired by his kindergarten teacher who read a picture book about Martin Luther King, Jr. He remembers how meaningful it was to see someone who looks like him in his lessons. When he had his first Black teacher, his dream of becoming a teacher seemed even more attainable. Bottom line: Students need to see themselves in what we do.
  • Students want to learn…in a safe space. Having a safe space means making room for different viewpoints and learning how to consider those. Students are more ready to tackle today’s world when they’ve learned to appreciate and value others’ perspectives. Bottom line: Students — like each of us — need to be seen, valued and respected for their contributions.
  • Students are capable of more than we think. Russell teaches classes on an array of historical issues. Given facts and space to learn, students understand and draw connections that enrich their understanding from history to now.

No matter the challenges this year may bring, Russell wants students to know: “We hear you. We value you. We respect you. Transforming young people’s lives is enough.” Congratulations, Kurt!

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