It’s Teacher Appreciation Week.

Like many other holidays and observances, it feels a tad underwhelming to dedicate such a limited timeframe to appreciating such a valuable part of our society. 

This year, on more than one occasion, Johnson County teachers rallied, both here and in Frankfort, for their promised pensions, a fair retirement system for new teachers, and adequate funding for public schools. 

How well Frankfort listened, and how much respect our lawmakers showed in the process, is up for debate, and is a matter for you and other voters to decide. What is not up for debate is the hard work, dedication to our children and overall professionalism that our local teachers exhibited the entire time.

For Johnson County’s economy to rebound in a sustainable way, there is a chicken-and-egg problem. 

To attract industry, we need to continue the tradition of having hard-working people willing to stay and work close to home. To make that happen, we need there to be stable, high-paying jobs available. And again, to get those jobs, we need the workers. 

Students are training for skilled jobs right now, here in Paintsville, at the Haas eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute and at American Metal Works at Big Sandy Community and Technical College. Those jobs are not easy. In the 21st century, good-paying blue collar jobs require more brain power than elbow grease, and computer-guided machining requires a lot of advanced math and creative critical thinking. Higher education, either in college or a trade school, is increasingly important in a competitive workforce, and without our teachers, we no longer have students graduating with the necessary basis for a higher education. 

School is also a student’s first experience with developing the ever-important soft skills necessary to maintain a job: being on time, being respectful, asking for help when needed.

If teacher appreciation must be wedged into one week, make the most of it. If you know a teacher, actually let them know your gratitude — whether it’s a chat at the grocery store, a Facebook message, or the next time you go pick your kids up from school.

No profession so deeply touches all of our lives, and no profession more completely underlies the redevelopment of our local economy.

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