Mona Shield Payne
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 | 5:09 p.m.
Teachers at one local elementary school were surprised Tuesday with free lunch, entertainment and gift cards for school supplies in celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Day.
Around lunchtime about two dozen teachers streamed in and out of the staff lounge at Vegas Verdes Elementary School to grab sandwiches and chips, courtesy of Interim Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky. While teachers ate, dancers from Molodi performed a hip-hop and step routine that brought laughter and smiles to everyone in the room.
"It's an uplifting event," Principal Alice Roybal-Benson said. "Teaching is a noble profession that doesn't necessarily get the recognition it deserves. This is a great day to highlight the work our teachers do."
The Clark County School District is honoring its 17,000 teachers this week with a surprise each day of the week.
Monday, Skorkowsky presented cake and tow truck full of school supplies to Katie Lawrence, a Beckley Elementary School fourth-grade teacher named a new educator of the year. Over the next several days, the district plans to shower more teachers with gifts and surprises.
"It makes a world of difference for our teachers," said district spokesman Michael Rodriguez. "That's why we're so grateful to our community partners for making this week happen."
On Tuesday, Teacher Appreciation Day culminated at Vegas Verdes elementary with a surprise announcement from Appreciation Financial, a financial firm that helps about 3,000 Clark County teachers plan for their retirement.
The firm announced it was giving away 125 gift cards to teachers at three local schools. Teachers can use each of the cards to purchase up to $750 worth of school supplies from the Teachers Exchange, a warehouse of classroom resources maintained by the Public Education Foundation.
"This is our way of giving back," Appreciation Financial CEO Terry Kennedy told the teachers. "You are the core of our community because you're raising our future leaders. Hopefully, this donation will go a long way."
Vegas Verdes teachers said they were grateful for the compliments and gifts during Teacher Appreciation Week. Teachers across the district work long hours to help students succeed both in and out of the classroom, they said.
"People think it's nice and easy because we have summers off, but it's challenging because it's a 24-hour job," said Summer Hoover, a student teacher and master's degree candidate at Sierra Nevada College who has substitute-taught at Vegas Verde for six years. "It's nice to be appreciated."
Fifth-grade teacher Kristie Rodeles, who has been a Clark County teacher for 18 years, said the most challenging part of her job is to be "on stage" every day, engaging her students and helping them cultivate a love for life-long learning.
With about two-thirds of students coming into her classroom below grade level, it's also a big challenge to try to get them to proficiency and beyond, she added.
"It's a monumental task. The difference I have to make for them is huge," Rodeles said. "We definitely appreciate (the compliments and gifts during Teacher Appreciation week). It makes this job worth doing."
For fourth-grade teacher Charity Kline, the gift cards for school supplies were most appreciated. A 2010 school supply market survey found the average teacher nationally spent $936 of his or her own money on classroom materials each school year.
With the cash-strapped School District slashing the supply budget by half during the recession, a greater burden has fallen on teachers and parents to provide adequate school supplies for their classrooms. That has been particularly difficult for new teachers, who don't have supplies from previous years and are paid the least, Kline said.
"A lot of newer teachers spend a lot of money on school supplies," said Kline, who is in her sixth year of teaching. "I feel really blessed and grateful. This lunch, entertainment and gift card … it's pretty awesome."