Visiting a local school in conjunction with the nationwide "Day of the Teacher," a candidate for state superintendent of public instruction on Wednesday hailed teachers as "the heroes of America."
After a 30-minute tour of Century High School, which has been recognized for its extensive use of computers and other technology, candidate Delaine Eastin spoke to students and teachers about the importance of education and the crucial role instructors play in society. The job, she said, demands more respect.
"They are probably the most unsung profession in the state of California. We have underestimated what they're doing for us in the face of overwhelming odds," she said.
She pointed out that most teachers spend dozens of hours at home grading papers and preparing lessons, in addition to the work they do at school. And many also routinely spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year to buy books, paint and other instructional materials for their classes, she said.
Eastin made her comments after visiting about a dozen classrooms where teachers used computers as a tool to teach students English, word-processing, science and other subjects.
Afterward, students said they were grateful to participate in a day of special recognition for their teachers.
"I don't think we honor them enough. They do a heck of a job, and they deserve the credit for giving us our education," said Matt Carr, 18.
"If people really care about the future, they need to care about teachers and how well they are teaching," said Debra Russell, 17.
On Wednesday morning, teachers ate a breakfast of bagels and orange juice and received white carnations in honor of their profession. Several said they were touched by the students' gifts and words.
"I think a lot of society's ills get blamed on us and it's nice to have a day when people appreciate the work we do," said teacher Susan Eichinger.
Health teacher Jeff Davis noted, however, that the most important recognition for a job well done comes not on special appreciation days, but daily in the classroom.
That recognition comes "when a student tells you, 'Gee, I understand.' That's when you know you're appreciated," he said.