Josh Stein: During Teacher Appreciation Week, saying thank you is only the first step

Photo: Peter Cade/Getty Images

By Josh Stein

May 6, 2024

NC candidate for governor Josh Stein on saying “thank you” during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Ms. Cheek. Mr. Stuart. Mr. Wakeford.

These are three of the teachers who helped make me the person I am today. I bet most people reading this could make a similar list of teachers who made you excited to go to school in the morning. Even if you were a rascal like me, you’d turn in their homework because you cared about the material. You’d stay after class to ask their advice. They may have taught you about prepositions or the periodic table, but the lessons they imparted covered way more than just the curriculum.

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Every year, Teacher Appreciation Week gives us the opportunity to share our gratitude for the people who shape the next generation. But as we think about how to truly support our teachers, saying “thank you” is only the first step.

We’ve got to put our money where our mouth is. Our state ranks 46th in the country for beginning teacher pay. All four of our neighboring states – Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia – pay beginning teachers more than we do. It’s no wonder that we started the last school year with 3500 teacher vacancies in our state. Tens of thousands of students showed up to a series of substitute teachers day after day, which is far from ideal for their learning.

We must do better by our students, which means doing better by our teachers.

And pay isn’t the only reason our teachers are leaving – we don’t give them the respect they deserve. My opponent in the governor’s campaign called teachers “wicked people and demons.” He wants to defund public schools and has even suggested getting rid of science and social studies in elementary schools. He doesn’t value teachers’ expertise, their care for our kids, or the hard work they do to prepare students for the future.

I’ve spent the last year traveling across the state, and in town after town I hear the same message from teachers. They want to stay in the classroom. They want to keep educating the leaders of tomorrow. And families want to keep their teachers. But without pay and without respect, we’re making our teachers’ choices even harder.

So this Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s recommit ourselves to helping our teachers not just stay in the profession, but thrive. As Governor, I am determined to raise teacher pay. We all want our kids to walk into schools that are fully staffed with the school counselors, psychologists, and custodians they need, so that our teachers can focus on teaching. We can better support our student teachers so that they are attracted to get to the classroom in the first place. And the very foundation: we must fully fund our public schools so that our teachers have the resources they need to succeed.

When we do all of these things, we can be confident that our teachers can thrive and that our students can succeed as a result. My opponent pits teachers and parents against each other – urging parents to take their kids out of public schools. But as a public school graduate myself

and as a parent of three North Carolina public school graduates, I can say with confidence that we’re all on the same team.

Our schools’ future dictates our children’s future, and their future dictates our state’s future. Investing in our teachers will reap untold dividends.

Last year, one in nine of our teachers left the classroom. North Carolina, we can afford to pay our teachers. We can afford adequate support staff. And we can afford to help student teachers make it into the classroom. What we can’t afford is another year of vacancies.

Please join me in standing up for our teachers and showing them, not just with our words but also with our actions, that we value them. We appreciate them. We want them to stay. We want them to thrive.

And Ms. Cheek, Mr. Stuart, and Mr. Wakeford – if you’re reading this, thank you.


  • Josh Stein

    Josh Stein is a product of NC public schools and the proud parent of 3 NC public school graduates. He has served as North Carolina’s Attorney General since 2017 and is currently the Democratic nominee for governor.



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