Nearly 400 educators celebrated a year's worth of hard work at the Jefferson City Public School's 2013 Teacher Appreciation Banquet. The event was a way to recognize the contributions and achievements of first-year teachers, impending retirees and everyone in between.
The event, held at the Lewis and Clark Middle School gymnasium, served as an opportunity for retirees to muse about their careers in the public schools.
Tami Martin, a counselor at East Elementary School, said it's been a "pleasure to serve the community" for the past 18 years. This year will be her last, she said, and she's going to miss it.
"At East, we have a lot of children who come from very hard places," she said.
Serving those kids, and their families, has been a delight, she said. As counselor, Martin helped both kids and adults find the resources they needed and she served as a confidante for their problems beyond the school day.
"I've often been the Band-Aid that sticks things together," she said. "As corny as it sounds, you do kind of fall in love with the kids and their families."
Sen. Mike Kehoe emceed the evening.
Kehoe started the evening off with a small joke. He said sometimes he gets the two middle schools confused and has, on occasion, headed to one when he meant to be at the other.
"I have a little bit of a suggestion for the school board and Dr. Mitchell," he said. "You should think about one school."
More seriously, Kehoe told the crowd - as the youngest and sixth child of a single mom - he "wouldn't be standing here today" if it wasn't for his teachers.
"Our mom sometimes relied on the school district to straighten out her kids," he said.
Speaking as a senator, he told listeners that public education is a mission he's willing to support with tax dollars. "The needs are great and the challenges are many for education," he said.
David Ganey, last year's Teacher of the Year, said all six finalists have "amazing talents" and "amazing experiences."
He exhorted new, young teachers not to be afraid to turn to more-experienced educators for advice and insight. "Hopefully, we can inspire greatness in each other," Ganey said.
Tami Turner, the new president of the Jefferson City Board of Education, also thanked the teachers in the room, and noted the public schools are open to every child in the district.
"You people are the foundation of the success of the Jefferson City Public Schools. You are the ones who make a difference in their lives," she said.