From May 7 to May 11, communities across the nation recognized our educators during Teacher Appreciation Week. Private businesses offered in-store discounts. Community members shared their thanks in person or on social media. As a person who believes in lifelong learning and a proud graduate of public schools, I also extend my gratitude.  Teachers are creators, mentors, and influencers. They shape the next generation with essential knowledge and skills. They practice and teach the Wisconsin values we all share: civic engagement, hard work, fairness, and resilience.

These are the values I see all the time when I travel across northwestern Wisconsin. In Polk County, I visited the Osceola Empty Bowls auction. Teachers guided our students in an impactful K-12 service project that focused on civic engagement, fairness, and community resilience. Students made ceramic bowls and artwork to display and sell to community members. The funds were donated to the local food shelf and Heifer International, an organization that trains global families in sustainable farming practices. In my hometown of Somerset, I recognized Justin Rivard for his hard work creating the JustinKase – a school-safety device. The device works as a fast-acting door jamb that can be used during school emergencies. Justin was inspired during his shop class to create the JustinKase.

Teachers help shape our children’s future, and they know firsthand what it means to be resilient. In recent years, we have asked our teachers to do more with less.  In 2011, Governor Walker cut more funding per student than any other governor in the country, leaving local taxpayers to make up the difference. A total of $792 million in direct aid to K-12 schools was eliminated. For many schools, this meant program cuts, fewer supplies, and larger classrooms. During this time, teachers stepped up. According to a Communities in Schools survey, 91 percent of teachers have used their own money to purchase school supplies, 54 percent provided meals, and 49 percent helped students get clothing.

Values are more than mottos, but guidance stemming from our unique heritage. The product of these values can be seen in Osceola’s Empty Bowls auction. It can be seen in all of our communities. Moving beyond Teacher Appreciation Week, let us continue to recognize our teachers and their unique role in shaping our children’s future. Let us continue to be engaged, work hard, and practice fairness in our daily lives, just like our teachers do in theirs.

State Senator Patty Schachtner represents Wisconsin’s tenth senate district. The district covers parts of Burnett, Dunn, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties.