Teachers are Heroes

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Last Friday, I had the great pleasure of meeting three phenomenal educators – the latest inductees into The University of Texas System Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Loyal readers of this blog know that the Academy was created to recognize the best of the best, and to enlist them as advocates for innovation and excellence in teaching. 

The 2018 inductees are:

  • Elizabeth Danze, professor of Architecture and the Gene Edward Mikeska Endowed Chair for Interior Design at the UT Austin School of Architecture;
  • Jill Fleuriet, associate professor of Anthropology and associate dean of the Honors College at UT San Antonio; and
  • Alex R. Piquero, Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology and associate dean for graduate programs in the School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences at UT Dallas.


Left to right: Alex R. Piquero, Elizabeth Danze, Jill Fleuriet and Chancellor McRaven

I know we all can point to outstanding individual teachers like Elizabeth, Jill, and Alex who helped shape our lives for the better. But we cannot forget the macro effect teachers collectively have on our society – the role they play in creating the informed and engaged citizenry our democracy needs to function.

Like many of you, I have been paying attention to the teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma and elsewhere who are making their voices heard, and fighting for the respect, appreciation and support they deserve. It makes me doubly proud that the UT System is a place where great teaching is respected, appreciated, and rewarded – where teachers can not only do great work, but have a great career.

Teachers, at all levels, are the unsung heroes of American society. And while it may seem we only hear of them when something goes awry, the fact is their influence is apparent in every news story. And as proud of they must be of their own accomplishments, I know Professors Danze, Fleuriet, and Piquero are even prouder of what their outstanding teaching has set in motion – of the students who already have, or will go on to great things in the fields of architecture, anthropology, and criminology.

UT System is a place where great teaching is respected, appreciated, and rewarded – where teachers can not only do great work, but have a great career

It’s tempting to say that teaching is more important than ever. But I’m not sure that’s true. Because teaching has always been important! What is more important than ever, it seems to me, is celebrating and championing teachers, higher education, and education generally. So I told the new inductees, and all the members of the Academy, that I expect them to be fierce advocates, and fearless champions of teachers everywhere.

We can no longer sit back and assume that the public understands the incredible value teachers deliver – the incredible bargain they represent to our country. So we must speak out tirelessly, with passion and urgency – for the sake of teachers, but even more so for the sake of students, and the country they’ll soon be charged with leading.

As someone who will soon join the teaching ranks, I want my fellow educators – at all levels – to know they can count on me to be their champion in the years to come. 

Let me close by congratulating the inductees, once again – and, as always, by thanking you for reading.

I’ll write again soon.