Dear Educators -

As someone that grew up with family members and friends working for the education system, I know it's not a glamorous job. In fact, most of the time, it's an utterly thankless job.

Being the son of a teacher that's been working in the system for 30 years, I've seen the highs and lows. Sometimes, it seems that the lows outnumber the highs. You spend hours on-end, trying to get everything ready for your students. Then, you put it all to the test.

You deal with students that couldn't care less about the time and effort that you put into your lessons. Then, you meet parents of those students and discover that they have the exact same attitude as the kids.

Sometimes, you find out that you don't have the backing of your higher-ups, so those parents that I referenced earlier, are actually given the benefit of the doubt, and their kids are actually rewarded for being terrors in the classroom. Therefore, the bad attitude and behaviors are reinforced, and it gets progressively worse.

Then, you've got the students that just don't get it. Students that you want to make them see exactly how to do the assignments, but something just isn't clicking. It doesn't matter what tricks and shortcuts you try to teach them, it just doesn't make sense in their minds. So, that adds a bit of frustration to the mix.

That's not the end of it, though. True, your contract - usually - only goes from August to May. But, let's be honest, the life of a teacher is most definitely a year-round job. You spend your summer vacations attending conferences and seminars, so that you can keep your certifications up-to-date. Plus, you're already starting your preparations for the next school year, both physically AND mentally. You spend your money, and use your personal resources to make sure that your students have an environment that is welcoming and fit for a great learning experience.

This same cycle will go on for years and years on-end, and for what? It's certainly not for the paycheck. It's so that you can make a difference in those kids' eyes, and you can change their lives. Yes, it's true that you may only have one or two (sometimes more) biological kids at home, but you choose to take on an entire new set of kids each year. You do it because you want to see them succeed, and you want them to go on and do great things. And it's for that dedication - those long hours, and frustrating times, as well as the good...no, the great times - that you deserve thanks.

I'm the proud son, nephew, cousin, son-in-law and friend of educators from all across America, and I want to thank you all for what you do. I've seen, firsthand, what the life of an educator is like, and I'm here to tell you that it's a job that I couldn't do. But I'm so very thankful and blessed that there are people out there that are choosing to do it each and every day.

So, in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week 2019, I say thank you. Thank you for all that you do, not only INSIDE the classroom, but for all the effort that goes into what you do OUTSIDE the classroom, as well.

I can't say it enough...Thank you. You guys are #TheRealMVPs

-Mark Cunningham