Teachers are the overwhelming choice of our readers for this category, and several nominations were supplemented by specific names of area teachers. Indeed, the influence of even one good teacher can undo all kinds of damage. They do it even when their colleagues are not as conscientious as they are, and they do it even when they have harebrained, scheming-for-a-leg-up principals for bosses. Teachers get more criticism than kudos, they get more responsibilities heaped on them than respect. But even to recognize this is to equate teaching with missionary work. That's wrong. It's high time to have a national discussion about why we don't accord teachers more professional status, and save the breathless words for Mother Teresa. It's time to make years of experience in the profession pay off. When compared with other professions in the U.S., current teacher pay scales actually offer a disincentive to bother staying on the job. In Austin, we have lost many good teachers who don't care about attaining saint status, but who have bills to pay. That's outrageous, and shouldn't happen in a city where the per capita education level exceeds that of many other U.S. cities. Until we actually work on these issues, though, all we ask you to do is: Thank a teacher.
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