In Honor of Teacher Appreciation Day: A Letter from DI CEO Dr. Chuck Cadle

By: Tina Shaffer

Dear Teachers:

Five years. What can happen in your first five years as a new teacher? In just five years, nearly half of you will either transfer to a different school or leave one of the most important professions entirely.

Despite the fact that teachers make up one of the largest occupations in the U.S., teacher turnover is real. It has become a major problem that is affecting students and entire schools. While it’s apparent you deeply care for your students and their overall success, there are a number of logical reasons driving several of you to make the tough decision to quit your chosen career – the one you very recently were so passionate to pursue. It’s concerning that we are losing so many talented teachers; however, I’m also confident about the future of the teaching profession. We are at the brink of a much-overdue new era in education that is focused on empowering educators to use creativity and educational technology to infuse more fun interactive and meaningful lessons into their classrooms.

In honor of it being Teacher Appreciation Week, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank two teachers who had a special impact on my education and to thank all teachers (future, current and past) throughout the country for all that you do to help build our next generation of innovators and leaders.

The first teacher I’d like to recognize is Mr. Stanley O. Merritt, who was my high-school science teacher. I loved how your style of teaching was all about discovery and hands-on learning. You saw curiosity was an innate trait of mine, as I was always asking questions like “How does this apparatus work?” and “Why was it built this way?” To use my curiosity as a teachable moment, you brought in several televisions, radio and oscilloscopes and asked me to find out why they didn’t work and to try and repair them. Every day in class, I would figure out how to read circuit diagrams and how to trace the circuit voltage to the problem areas. By trial and error, I would replace or substitute components until the apparatus again worked. The opportunity to learn about electronics in such a fun and interactive way allowed me to acquire lifelong skills, such as perseverance, critical thinking, self-confidence, research, and patience, all of which are still benefiting me today. Thank you Mr. Merritt.

I would also like to thank Dr. Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw, who was my statistics professor and chair of my doctoral dissertation committee. By at least a decade, I was easily the oldest student in the class and the only one advanced in the education profession. You quickly noticed that I was an individual on a mission to learn all the information I could that would benefit our Destination Imagination program. One key lesson I learned from my experience in your class was the importance of being mindful of defeating emotions and to never give up.

More than 50 percent of my classmates dropped out of the doctoral program; however, thanks to your counsel to stay focused on my end goal, to maintain a positive attitude, and to take moments throughout the process to reflect on the journey, I was able to not only successfully obtain my doctorate in May 2013, but to do so with honors recognition! You helped me exceed my goals and this never would have happened had it not been for your constant guidance and support. Thank you Dr. Rockinson-Szapkiw.

Anyone who knows my tenure with Destination Imagination will know that the combined attributes of both of these teachers have made an impact into our Destination Imagination Challenge program. During Teacher Appreciation Week, please be sure to take the time to reach out to the teachers who have made a difference in your life and give them the recognition they so richly deserve.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Dr. Chuck Cadle