Teachers are not only responsible for imparting a variety of academic subjects to students in a classroom, but they nurture and train society’s future generations and sacrifice time and effort to cultivate and develop youth from a variety of backgrounds and situations.
In short, they are gatekeepers of knowledge for the next group of leaders and innovators.
On Friday, November 3, Regent University hosted the 19th annual Salute to Teachers event in celebration of these public servants who, all too often, go unrecognized for the vital work they do.
Around 300 teachers, administrators, and guests from the local Virginia Department of Education Region 2, covering the greater Tidewater area of eastern Virginia, were present, as well as university leadership.
“I think students sometimes may not remember all the material, but they will remember the impact of that teacher,” said Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño, Regent’s Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. “That’s profound, and often times, frankly, that’s all a student needs to see — someone that has empathy for them, that cares for them and loves them, and that propels them to do so many other things.”
He said teachers help with students’ “moral formation and character formation.”
He also said teachers add immense value to communities and that “we need to do a better job of honoring them, compensating them, respecting them, helping them, supporting them.”
Fortunately, higher education is positioned to equip them for this weighty calling, allowing them to further enrich their potential. It provides a holistic approach to teaching, meaning it focuses teachers on “molding the entire person” of a student.
“Here at Regent, it’s a profound opportunity,” said Moreno-Riaño. “We take it very seriously. We know that when we educate a faculty member, a future faculty member, or a future teacher for a school, we’re educating someone to think about the world a certain way and to educate students to what is true, beautiful, and good.”
“Teaching is a calling. It’s not easy. We know that typically, a number of teachers, a high percentage of teachers, don’t make it past the first five years because they’re not appreciated,” said Regent’s School of Education Dean Dr. Don Finn. “We want them to be appreciated here at Regent University.”
Dean Finn said Regent trains teachers in both theoretical and “hands-on” ways. But as a Christian institution, it also fulfills a higher calling — one of discipleship and a commitment to teaching educators how to integrate their Christian faith and scripture in their classrooms.
“That’s what it’s all about for us here at Regent,” said Dean Finn. “I’m really proud to be a part of it.”
“Teachers give so much of themselves,” said 2017 Virginia Teacher of the Year Dr. Toney McNair Jr. “They give so much of their resources and I think because they have an intricate part within [the] development of our community … we should recognize the people [teachers] who work hard, who give of themselves and it should be a given: teachers should be recognized at every point.”
McNair currently teaches choral music in Chesapeake, Virginia, at Indian River Middle School.
Although his occupation is instructing others, he considers himself and other teachers, learners. He currently has a doctorate degree, but is set to begin studying for a second master’s degree later this year.
“The way Regent recognizes teachers, I just think is outstanding,” McNair said. “I applaud Dr. Finn and his staff for what they’re doing here.”