Remarks on the Important Role of Teachers


Julie Baker Finck, Ph. D., President

Last month the Foundation’s president Julie Baker Finck, Ph. D delivered a riveting speech to incoming Houston Independent School District teachers at the HISD New Teacher Academy. Julie’s speech was an inspiring introduction to an important annual event welcoming new teachers to the Team HISD each year. We are thankful for our continued partnership and support with the Houston Independent School District Community.

“Good morning, everyone. It is wonderful to see so many HISD teachers gathered here day. If you are new to Houston, welcome to one of the most innovative, ‘can-do’ cities in America. To everyone, I welcome you to one of the most progressive school districts in our country. Thank you, in advance, for your commitment to ensuring the success of our children by providing them with a high-quality education.

I am proud to have begun my career as a classroom teacher. I am also proud to call Houston home and to have served on the executive leadership team of HISD prior to my start at the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. I will always consider HISD family and continue to enjoy the opportunity to serve as a partner with the district and as an advocate for the families and children we serve each day.

I am very honored to speak to you today about the importance of your role as teachers and the impact each one of you will make on our children, our families and our entire community. I encourage you to make it count, and make a difference.

Let’s start with the impact you will have on our children, as they are of the utmost importance. As teachers, you play an integral role in building their brains and preparing them for academic success. Indeed, you will make them “smart”. You will also be a role model, greatly influencing their behavior and character. Doing so will help shape who they become as a person. You will set high expectations, while motivating, praising, and inspiring them to live up to the aspirations of greatness that you have for every single one of them. Doing this will give them self-confidence, the ability to open their minds to endless possibilities, and dream big for their futures. You will unlock their fullest potential in life. You are, undoubtedly, one of the most important people with whom our children will ever come into contact. Make it count, and make a difference.

I believe that the rubber meets the road in the classroom. In other words, you are the driver that can truly make a difference in a child's life. Where will you take children this year? You must make the best of the time you spend with each child. There will be times when you want to place blame: on parents, on the home environment, on previous teachers, or other system factors. Treat these obstacles as simply orange barrels in the road that you must navigate to help children reach their destination and not let them prohibit the progress of student learning. Your compass should be on what you do and be based on the directions you have created for your students. Measure each child's progress from the time they step into your classroom and until the time they leave you, and know that you are responsible for helping them to reach their destination. Make it count, and make a difference.

As teachers, you will also be ambassadors to families of the children you serve, providing them with important information about their child’s progress and giving them strategies to support their child to success. You will build trust among families, empower them, and make them feel that they can and do play a key role in their child’s future. Through your leadership and work, you will break the intergenerational cycle of low literacy and poverty among families. You will prepare their children to secure a job that will earn them a living wage and for many, become first-generation college graduates. Every parent wants the best for their child. You will not only provide the best, but bring out the best within their child.  Make it count, and make a difference.

Changing lives, empowering families and building strong communities. Aren’t these the reason why we became teachers in the first place?

Lastly, as teachers, you play a vital role in ensuring the social and economic vitality of our community. There is no disputing the fact that education is the heartbeat of a thriving city. A quality education, means a healthy community. Each and every day, you will help keep our city’s heart beating and do incredible things to ensure that Houston has a viable workforce, that our citizens contribute meaningfully to our society and that we are a global force for innovation and productivity. Your tireless and important work will define what’s possible and determine the future of our city.  Make it count, and make a difference.

Thank you for taking on the challenging role as teachers, for your unwavering commitment to undertaking the monumental job of changing children’s lives and paving the way for their bright futures, and for your service to families and our community. I wish you a successful school year. Make it count, and make a difference.

©Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, 2016