Teachers are “Born to Make a Difference” — A Tribute to Dr. Rita Pierson, Educator

I just learned of a veteran teacher who passed away last month. Her name was Dr. Rita Pierson of Houston, Texas. She offered a TED Talk in May of this year, just a month or so before her untimely death. Her message was one that resonates on a deep level with me, and I am sure it resonated with the teachers in the audience at the time of the talk. “Every kid deserves a champion,” Dr. Pierson said, and educators “were born to make a difference.”

Embedded in her talk is also an unspoken criticism of the current trend toward standardization and conformity over recognizing the unique qualities of every child. She makes reference to “policy that doesn’t make sense.” She also speaks to childhood poverty which is the ever present reality that keeps many students from being successful even though the key education reformers who currently seem to be making all the rules won’t discuss poverty in any serious way. They claim that “poverty is no excuse” for a child not to learn. And of course, it isn’t an excuse…but it is a reason for why some children succeed and some start out behind before they have even been given a chance to start.

The majority of teachers that I know and worked with for over 30 years were much like Dr. Rita Pierson. They were born to teach and they kept teaching in spite of the more inane rules and policies that came along year after year. It’s in their DNA. They can’t NOT teach, which is why they continue to put up with so much of the abuse that they have been subjected to over the years.

I agree whole heartedly with Dr. Pierson that “every kid deserves a champion,” and educators were “born to make a difference.” Hers is a powerful message from a powerful educator. I am sure Dr. Pierson will be missed by those she touched with her dedication, commitment, and zeal for her profession. I did not know her and I did not know of her until today, but today, through her TED Talk, she touched my life and reminded me why I was a teacher for over three decades.