The teaching profession has had some significant changes over the last few decades.

No longer are the days when teaching is the primary focus. These days, every day an educator steps into a classroom, he or she becomes something more. A teacher. A mandated reporter inside and outside of school. And in the most horrific of instances, an emergency responder, protector of students, and in too many unfortunate cases, a victim of violence.

We are sure it isn’t an easy profession when standardized testing results determine a school employee’s worth or when state mandates absorb a substantial amount of a public school district’s budget, taking away from much needed tools and supplies in the classroom. And, in our local schools throughout Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties, those budgets have already come with deep cuts and tough decisions. There are other hurdles locally, too, like poverty among those in the classrooms and an ever-thickening dark cloud of opioid and other substance abuse affecting the families of students who may not be as prepared as they need to be to retain the information they will need for future success.

But despite all of the challenges, we continue to see dedicated teachers in our communities who push beyond the struggles and remember the reasons they gravitated toward the profession.

Recently, three area educators were recognized as exceptional teachers through the “All Star Teachers” program, which is a product of a partnership between Chevron, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pirates Charities, The Grable Foundation, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit I, Intermediate Unit 1 (IU1) and Kidsburgh.

The program seeks to honor teachers who have made a significant difference in the lives of their students, through instruction, curriculum and inspiring passion.

Carmichaels Area High School’s Kevin Willis, Intermediate Unit 1 Waynesburg’s John Kopp and Southmoreland Middle School’s Gavin Sikorski were recently recognized as “All Star Teachers” for their exceptional classroom efforts.

Science teacher Willis was honored for his work with the district’s Envirothon team, which captured a state title last year. Kopp is a teacher in the IU1’s digital fabrication laboratory in Waynesburg and was honored for the continual pursuit of professional development to provide more opportunities for his students. Sikorski, a STEM teacher, made a difference in the lives of a Texas child and a child from England, after they received a prosthetic for children born without a hand, which was made by Sikorski and his students.

We are certain there are many more educators throughout our local schools who are making such contributions in their professions. In a world where it would be easy to walk away from the discouragement and hardships they face every day, we are, instead, watching our teachers deliver one of the greatest lessons of all time.


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