Kurt Russell is the 2022 National Teacher of the Year. Credit: Photo Credit: Cody York Photography Inc.

It had been 10 years since they’d last seen each other — and 17 since they’d been teacher and student. But when Connie Hall was at the White House in April being recognized as a 2023 State Teacher of the Year, her former student, now a staffer in the famous building, ran over to greet her.

This is representative of the family Hall has created during her roughly 29 years as a teacher. In fact, she’s part of an ongoing group message between parents she’s “adopted” during her teaching years.

And they give back to her in return. During the early months of the COVID-19 lockdown, her adopted family was sensitive to Hall’s husband’s heart condition, and they didn’t want her to go out for groceries. So they did the shopping for her — making sure to abide by her vegetarian diet — and left groceries on the porch. 

And, in Alabama, Kimberly Christian Johnson is known as the “school mama.” She keeps supplies in her classroom that students are able to help themselves to, like deodorant, dental care, and even ramen noodles.

Recently, a student stopped by her classroom and asked for some deodorant. After using the travel-sized product, he called Johnson a “lifesaver.”

These aren’t things Hall and Johnson were asked to do, but it is part of what makes them Teachers of the Year. 

Since March 2020, between 25% to nearly 50% of teachers and principals have reported that they are considering leaving their jobs within the next year, according to RAND’s 2022 State of the American Teacher survey. The desire to exit the classroom is especially prevalent among Black teachers and other teachers of color, with more than 40% saying they intended to leave their jobs by the end of the 2021-2022 school year, compared to 31% of white teachers. And only 7% of teachers are Black to begin with. 

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