I always wanted to be a teacher, but somewhere along the way my course of study went down a different path.

My sister is a school counselor and my daughter and niece both are educators. I have many friends who have worked in the education field and most of my mentors growing up were teachers and coaches.

I still have memories of my elementary days at Green Valley. I still see Mr. Gilbert and Ms. Adams occasionally, and will never forget the booming voice of Mr. Mossler. To an elementary kid, he was like a giant of a man.

Scribner was an adjustment but I was lucky to have teachers like Teresa Bottorff-Perkins for math. And it was at Scribner where I met my second bigger-than-life figure, Mr. Jones, who always reminded me of Alabama's legendary football coach, Bear Bryant. For the record, my first bigger-than-life figure was my Dad.

At New Albany High School I was surrounded by great teachers — Herr Howard, Mr. Hall and Mr. Goerlitz — and was fortunate to have a real gentleman as my home room teacher for three years, Mr. Delph.

I have always admired those who each day work to educate our children and turn them into solid, productive citizens.

So like many of you I am interested to see what comes from today's Red for Ed Action Day at the Indiana Statehouse. More than 10,000 teachers are expected to converge on the state capital to voice their concerns over low teacher pay and other issues that affect both teachers and students.

Teachers in this state deserve better pay, there is no doubt about that. I know how much effort my sister and daughter put into their work, and how passionate they are about helping and teaching kids .... our kids. They work countless hours, and teachers regularly spend their own money for school supplies. They shouldn't have to work two and three jobs just to make ends meet.

As someone who considers himself right of center, I am all about fiscal responsibility. I am proud this state is the envy of others with a $2 billion-plus cash surplus. Without knowing what the future holds, we need cash reserves so we can weather whatever financial storms lie ahead.

But it's time to let go of some of that surplus to make sure we can attract and keep the best teachers. We not only want this state to be on solid financial ground, but also to provide the best public education in the Midwest and beyond.

Teachers aren't looking to get rich, they just want to make a decent wage for the job they do, which is educating our future generation. I know there are always people who work multiple jobs, for whatever reason, and I admire those folks. What I am talking about is a professional educator needs to be paid as a professional educator.

And for some reason our state education system is obsessed with the yearly standardized test. I know tests are needed to gauge students' achievement, but teacher pay and school grades should not be based solely on these yearly exams. Some kids get no parental support and come to school with plenty of baggage. We can't blame teachers or give them bad evaluations based on a yearly multiple choice test. There are so many factors at play.

The Red for Ed event is a good way to draw attention to the plight of teachers' pay, not to mention other issues they deal with daily. We need good teachers in this state, ones who teach for decades and come to work each day feeling appreciated.

Looking back, I can't imagine not having a Jim Dickman or a Norris Delph to talk to each day, or a guy like Darrell Jones, who was not only the gym teacher, but also provided a needed side of toughness to his curriculum.

Think about the legendary teachers in your life and what it would have been like to go through school without having those stable and motivational figures. I just wrote about one last week, Alice Ranck Hettle, who touched so many lives in her 30-plus years teaching Latin at New Albany High School. Following her death, so many of her former students wrote about their admiration and love for her on Facebook, and the impact she had on them as students. It was really overwhelming to see so many express their feelings about their beloved Ms. Ranck.

My hope is that children today will be able to write about their Ms. Ranck in the years to come ... maybe they will share memories about my daughter, sister or niece. That is what it is all about, remembering those who gave so much to us in the classroom, on the theater stage or athletic field. Their impact can be felt for a lifetime.

Contact Assistant Editor Chris Morris at chris.morris@newsandtribune.com and 812-206-2155.

Recommended for you