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Cervantes: A teacher’s burden

BY CHRISTOPHER CERVANTES | FEBRUARY 25, 2015 5:00 AM

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In Ankeny, Iowa, teacher Jennifer Rich found herself out of a job after she was discovered to be intoxicated during a Valentine’s Day celebration in her kindergarten class on Feb. 13. After being put on suspension, the 40-year old teacher resigned from her post. She faces charges of public intoxication and child endangerment. Rich had an alcohol level of 0.145, much higher than the legal behind the wheel limit of .08.

This event has forever changed how this teacher, a once highly respected member of her community, will be perceived. Such is the curse that all teachers and educational personnel must endure. Because of their status as role models and mentors to the future generations, individuals in the field of education are placed upon a high pedestal similar to the likes beloved icons. However, that means that when they fall, they fall harder than most.

But should teachers be held to such a high standard?

To be frank, yes, they should.

I want to state that this is not a personal attack on Rich and the private issues that she must face. She is a human being, just as any other educator is. But while it is imperative to remember that these individuals are just as human as anyone else, their careers exist solely for the purpose of molding the minds of the youth. In the absence of a child’s parents/guardians, teachers must not only uphold their role as educators, but they must also act as a parental figure.

That is the key here, the parental role that is almost forced upon those in the educational field.
The role of parents is simple. They not only go out of their way to teach children right from wrong while instilling knowledge so that their children are able to grow into functioning members of society, but they also aim to protect their children from any sort of preventable danger in the world.

Now, what are the roles of a teacher? They are largely the same as the parents. Several of my family members and acquaintances, who are either teachers or administrators, have worked in districts in which some students’ parents simply did not care what happened to them. In those instances, the teachers had to step up and take over, in a sense, as surrogate parents. Because of this role, the student would not go without the care and guidance they needed to succeed.

Now compare the public fall of teachers with that of parents. Parents fall under media scrutiny for crimes such as child endangerment, abuse, and sexual abuse. Coincidently, or not so coincidently, those are the occurrences that more often than not, have educators in the news. And what happens to parents who put children in danger? They lose them. So, in turn, when teachers put children in danger, they must be kept away from children.

The reason we hold teachers to such a high standard is because of how pivotal they are to the developmental stages of our nation’s youth. Like parents, though, teachers have the opportunity to better themselves and get their children (and jobs) back in their lives. Once that happens, the errors of the past are merely a lesson used to guide future choices.


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