Next to parents, teachers have the hardest job imaginable. They supply young minds with a plethora of information that they will need to make their way in the world. But that world is so far beyond reading, riting and ’rithmatic as to be unrecognizable to a student from 100 — or even 50 — years ago.

But good teachers are up to the challenge. They can comfort kindergartners who are away from home for the first time, explain how a run-over-rise mathematical formulas mean a stairway will be properly constructed and why neat handwriting today translates to accurate field notes as a college student.

Truly great teachers — and Powell schools are graced with many outstanding teachers — can do all that even as they inspire their students to think independently and figure out what questions they need to ask to solve the situation in front of them.

The hours are long, the summers short, the social needs of their students ever-growing. Educators must continue to be life-long learners themselves just to keep up with this constantly changing world and continue to meet the needs of their pupils.

They put a certain amount of their own money into helping meet those needs and they do it without regret.

Those educators do not remain in the classroom because they have no place else to turn to make a living. They could easily take their mad skills to almost any venue and apply them well, and make more money.

The Wyoming Legislature this year was unable to come to a compromise about how to fund K-12 education. Many legislators wanted to consider reining back the leeway districts have in determining pay levels for educators, which could eliminate the capability of districts to allocate funds on hand toward salaries or stipends.

In our estimation, that would be a grievous error. Careful money management on the part of school districts should be rewarded with trust that they are doing the right thing with the tax dollars delivered to them. It would also damage the ability of districts to attract and retain good teachers.

When Park County School District 1 announces its new pay schedule for educators, the community should know how careful the district has been with its resources. That includes identifying and being ready to implement cuts to its budgets, should the Legislature send those cuts out during the special session in July. Meanwhile, the money saved in the reductions can be used to shore up the district reserves. Those cuts will not put anyone out of work or impact the classrooms.

But there is money in the kitty to increase pay to those educators who year after year, even in years fraught with change and challenge, continue to provide an exemplary education to the youth of Powell. That education will take them far and the ability instilled in them to go out, get more education, apply it and bring it back to the Big Horn Basin to improve life here while providing a living for themselves and their families is worth far, far more than the compensation — whatever it is — can ever express.

By Connie Burcham

Powell Tribune

May 11

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