District teacher of year sets fine example for all

The Beaufort County School District's annual teacher of the year announcement reminds us to acknowledge a critical factor in our children's learning -- their teachers.

This year's winner, Chris Gray, a math teacher at Hilton Head Island High School, exemplifies what it takes to work "magic" in a classroom, taking a subject many dread and making it achievable. Her efforts extend beyond the classroom to tutoring students after school and in her neighborhood.

Mary Beth White, an English teacher at the high school who nominated Gray for the award, said Gray, a 20-year veteran at Hilton Head High, can take a subject that seems like a foreign language to some of her students and translate it so they can understand; no small feat.

Dedicated, enthusiastic, team player, mentor are words used to describe Gray, her fellow finalists and past winners.

None of their accomplishments comes easily. Anyone who has tried to corral and keep the attention of their own or a small group of children can imagine what a daunting task it is just to keep order in a classroom, let alone impart knowledge.

As with any job, experience is key. Gray's willingness to help her colleagues may be as important in the long run as her ability to teach her students.

That's especially true when you consider what teacher turnover costs us educationally and financially. A 2007 study by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future found that teacher turnover in the U.S. cost school systems more than $7 billion a year. Nearly half of new teachers leave their jobs within five years, according to the National Teachers Association, a teachers union.

High teacher turnover often correlates with low student achievement, studies show. Recruiting and training new teachers eats up valuable educational resources.

Those who stick it out, go the extra mile and make a difference in our children's lives earn our respect and gratitude. It's a job most of us wouldn't dare take up, but it underpins all of our futures.

Thank you to Chris Gray and all her fellow teachers.