Though it should occur more frequently throughout the year, Teacher Appreciation Day is a wonderful time to celebrate teachers. Every spring, we pause and reflect on the central role teachers have played in our lives, as well as in the lives of over 500,000 students attending public schools across Connecticut each day.

All of us can remember teachers who inspired us with their passion, impacted us with their knowledge, and touched us with their compassion. Perhaps there was even a teacher who changed the course of your life. Maybe it was a math teacher who helped you realize you could do algebra after all, or an English teacher who unlocked the joy of reading by sharing novels with relatable stories and characters. Or maybe it was the science or music teacher who helped you to discover your passion and launched you on a path to become a biochemist, a record producer, or a teacher yourself.

None of us would be who we are or where we are today if it were not for the teachers who taught us and shaped the trajectory of our lives. They equipped us with essential knowledge and skills, encouraged us to persevere through challenges big and small, and pushed us to dream big about where our lives could take us.

And especially for young people who face challenging life circumstances —poverty, housing instability, trauma— a teacher can make all the difference in the world. Oftentimes, classroom teachers take on roles far larger and more influential than their job descriptions would suggest. They serve as mentors and role models, a source of advice, comfort, support, and encouragement. They are champions and advocates for young people who, absent their presence, may not have others in their lives who can play that role.

Words alone cannot adequately convey the critical role teachers play. As they shape the young minds of the next generation, day in and day out, so too do teachers determine the future of our country. They help children learn to treat one another with kindness and respect. They nurture tomorrow’s great leaders, thinkers, creators, and inventors. They instill the fundamental principles of democracy —the essential underpinnings of our society.

Teachers are the heart and soul of our schools; they are on the ground doing the hard work of education, every day. They wake up before dawn to greet their students as they arrive. They answer calls and emails from parents at all hours of the day and night. They put every ounce of energy they have into reaching and engaging their students.

Despite salaries too modest for what they contribute to the world, teachers even spend their own money to enrich their classrooms. The most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 94 percent of public school teachers in the United States buy supplies for their classrooms without reimbursement, with an average amount spent of $479. Through its partnership with, a platform for teachers to request funding for much-needed materials and experiences for their students, Dalio Philanthropies has sought to bring those numbers down by supporting more than 2,500 projects created by Connecticut teachers since 2016.

Making a donation of any size through is a wonderful way for anyone to bring a big smile to a teacher’s face.

Today, on Teacher Appreciation Day, we wish to extend our deepest gratitude and most heartfelt appreciation to Connecticut’s teachers. We see everything you’re doing for our young people, and we thank you.

Barbara Dalio is the Co-Founder and Director of Dalio Philanthropies and Jan Hochadel is President of AFT Connecticut.

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