The week of May 6 through 10 is Teacher Appreciation Week in California.
As you read this, I'm sure you recall a favorite teacher you had somewhere in your educational journey. For many of us in the education profession, it was one or two people who influenced us beyond words, who inspired a love of teaching, learning, reading, writing, science or math.
Looking back on my own career, I see the love of literature, reading, the adventures and the meaning that books hold for us inspired by my sophomore English teacher at Lodi High School, Mrs. Joann Gavin. I also see my inquisitiveness and passion for learning as being truly sparked by my sixth-grade teacher at Leroy Nichols, Mrs. Bonnie Scott. Thank you both for inspiring me to the noblest of professions, and the passions for teaching and learning. And thank you to every one of my teachers I had growing up in Lodi schools.
Teacher Appreciation Week and the Day of Teacher — tomorrow, May 8 — mark a significant milestone for teachers this year. This year is the 150th anniversary of the California Teachers Association.
When it was founded by state Schools Superintendent John Swett in 1863, the California Educational Society had fewer than 100 members, all men. Today, Swett's vision of creating an "association in some form ... to organize and work together ... in leading public opinion in school affairs" is shared by 325,000 teachers statewide, men and women of all ethnicities, creeds, languages and cultures.
Led by Swett, the CTA won its first victory in 1866 in creating a free public education for California students. In 1867, public funding was secured to provide schools for non-white children.
Other educational and teachers' rights victories followed: free textbooks for all students in first through eighth grade and the creation of community colleges (1911); a teacher retirement system, STRS (1913); and restrictions on child labor (1915).
In 1927, the CTA won a victory in the California Supreme Court that prevents school boards from firing female teachers because they are pregnant.
In 1975, a legislative victory was won when the CTA-sponsored Rodda Act passed, making California school employees the first public employees in the state to win collective bargaining rights.
California teachers, including those in our Lodi schools, have a long history of fighting for quality education for our children.
In 1988, we fought for the passage of Proposition 98, guaranteeing minimum funding for our schools.
In 1995, we organized and lobbied to win Class Size Reduction for kindergarten through third-grade classrooms, guaranteeing our children in early grades have classes at a 20:1 student-teacher ratio.
And time and again, we have raised our voices against legislators and corporations who have sought through money and legislation to undermine the high quality education and opportunities that public school teachers provide your children.
So this week, as you drop your children off at school, as you meet a teacher in the supermarket, or as you reminisce about your own education, take a moment to thank a teacher. We are the ones who educate every student as our own. We provide the safe harbor in our classrooms where students can explore their dreams and find their passions.
And in some tragic circumstances, we give our lives for our students, as our colleagues in Newtown, Conn. did.
Jeff Johnston is president of the Lodi Education Association.