Every child in America deserves to have a quality education, and during the 89th annual American Education Week, from Nov. 14-20, schools are shining a national spotlight on the basic right.
In 1919, representatives from the National Education Association and the American Legion looked at ways to generate support for public education systems. Two years later, the first AEW was observed, Dec. 3-10, 1921. The following year, the U.S. Department of Education joined the effort, and the PTA came on board in 1938.
Currently, AEW is co-sponsored by the NEA, U.S. Department of Education, national organizations like the National PTA and American Legion in addition to a number of other associations. The event is always recognized the week before Thanksgiving.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Marshall Middle School students dressed in their pajamas as a part of American Education Week.
Around the country, schools are celebrating AEW in a variety of ways. But one thing is universally certain: to achieve excellence in education, it takes commitment from students, teachers, administrators, other staff and community members.
Tracy Area Public Schools has hosted an education banquet during AEW since 1995. This year's banquet is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
"We just celebrate education," said Dave Marlette, TAPS superintendent. "That's what it's about, and it's one of the highlights of the year. We usually have 400-450 people there, so it's very well attended. The community really backs this."
The program features a wide range of educational recognitions, including outstanding student achievers and scholars, teacher of the year awards and a helping hands award for support staff.
"We bring everyone up in front and honor them," Marlette said. "We try to honor those kids doing really well with academics. We also recognize our employees who retired last May."
TAPS also gives two lifetime service awards and two or three Wall of Fame awards each year.
"For the lifetime service, (the nominees) don't have to graduate from Tracy, but it's someone who came to Tracy and lived here and were outstanding in what they did for the school. A lot of time it's teachers and administrator,"?Marlette said.
The Wall of Fame honorees are Tracy graduates that went on to do amazing things.
"We'll have our 36th and 37th inductee this year," Marlette said. "They get a real nice plaque and will have their picture in the cabinet in the hallway across from the gym. We want our students to know they can go anywhere from here with their education at Tracy."
Donald Johnston, a composer and musician, and Laurence "Larry" Nyquist, who worked at NASA, are this year's inductees.
"Donald has written a lot of songs," Marlette said. "Larry has a physics and engineering degree and has worked for NASA for 30-plus years. He's won many national awards for his work in space. There's even a star named after him."
Erland Anderson and Ethel Sauppi are this year's lifetime service recipients.
"Erland was the principal here before Art Marben," Marlette said. "Ethel was a longtime math teacher. Both of them were well-thought of. Neither of them are with us anymore, but their families are coming back to accept the awards on their behalf."
Murray County Central will host its third education banquet Monday, beginning with a 5:30 p.m social, followed by a supper at 6 p.m.
"We honor a variety of things, but it's basically to celebrate academics," MCC Superintendent and High School Principal Summer Pankonen said. "We select four students honorees from each grade, from fourth-12th. They can only get it one time in a three-year period. We also do academic letterwinners and staff service pins."
MCC hands out awards for support person of the year, friend of education, paraprofessional of the year and outstanding retiree.
"It's a way to honor and recognize achievement, dedication and commitment by students, staff and community members," Pankonen said. "It's just a way to honor students and staff that make a difference. It's for the students who put in extra effort and staff or community members who continue to give. It's those people who keep our schools going strong."
Two or three Wall of Fame inductees are also chosen each year. On Monday, the contributions of Mildred Strand, Dick Davidson and Ken Sagedahl will be celebrated.
Some school celebrations were more low-key, but just as important. At Marshall Middle School, they had dress up days for AEW. On Monday, the students wore pajamas to school.
On Tuesday, the middle school students went "totally 80s" with their attire, followed by designated "class colors" today. Thursday is hat day, while Friday is Tiger pride day where everyone is encouraged to wear orange and black.
The nation's President, Barack Obama, even released his book, "Of Thee I Sing: a Letter to My Daughters," during AEW. Released Tuesday, the inspirational book is a tribute to 13 groundbreaking Americans, including George Washington, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, Sitting Bull, Cesar Chavez and Billie Holiday, encouraging all children to pursue their dreams.