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In Appreciation of Teacher Heroics

On April 27, a 16-year-old boy allegedly fired two shots inside North Thurston High School in Lacey, Washington. He probably never expected what happened next: He was tackled by teacher Brady Olson.

Olson put his life on the line to save his students. When everyone ran away from the shooter, Olson ran toward the shooter to stop him.

The popular civics teacher is being hailed as a hero. But in a statement released to the press, he said, “As always, students come first, and today was no different.”

This happens over and over again. We see and hear stories of teacher heroics on a nearly regular basis. But whether they are standing between attackers and students, listening to students’ heartbreaking stories, or finding lunch money for a kid who has none, teacher heroics are more common than we realize.

To be sure, like any other profession, education has its share of incompetence. There are some teachers and administrators who should not be in the profession. No one disputes that. But the ones who share Olson’s belief that ‘students come first’ are the keepers, the ones who often don’t get enough credit for all the good they do. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Mr. Olson probably has performed some heroics before, on many other levels, like almost every other teacher I know.

They all deserve our thanks, not just during this Teacher Appreciation Week, but all year long.

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, I wrote a piece for CNN titled “Above all, teachers are in it for the kids.” It seems appropriate to revisit that article this week. It summarizes my views on teacher heroics, but I think I’m not the only person who feels this way. Read it and let me know your thoughts.

In the meantime, teachers, thank you for all you do. You are heroes, everyday.

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