Published Online: September 23, 2004
Published in Print: September 22, 2004, as Teacher Appreciation

State Journal

Teacher Appreciation

Michigan Chief's Book Pays tribute to Teachers

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Tom Watkins, Michigan's state superintendent of schools, likes to ask students about what they think makes a teacher great, and then to jot down the answers for use in his speeches.

Since taking over as Michigan's top school official in 2001, Mr. Watkins has filled a drawer with the quotes.

At the urging of friends and colleagues, he recently compiled some of the comments into a small paperback book titled They Help Us Paint Rainbows.

The responses to Mr. Watkins' question about what makes a teacher great include, "They help us feel safe even when we make mistakes," or "They're here for us."

In another quote, set against the background of a seascape, a student reflects of teachers, "They were always great, but we didn't realize it until many years later."

The 60-page book features colorful student artwork with each quote.

"I want to get this out as a way to say thanks to teachers," Mr. Watkins said in an interview last week.

So far, 10,000 copies of the book have been printed. The project is being underwritten by private contributions.

Conversations have taken place about retailing the book, or converting it into a poster, Mr. Watkins said. All proceeds, he added, could go into a pot to generate "minigrants for great teachers."

"The feedback has been great," he added. "On a down day, teachers can have it on their desk and go through it."

Though not every teacher has seen the book, the enterprise is being noted by educators, said Margaret Trimer-Hartley, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.

"It was a great idea to compile something like this," she said. "When it comes to recognizing and honoring school employees, he gets an A-plus."

PHOTO: Michigan students provide drawings and quotes for the book They Help Us Paint Rainbows.
—Courtesy of Tom Watkins

Vol. 24, Issue 04, Page 24

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