Thousands of educators across Memphis and Shelby County were honored Sunday at the annual Celebration of Teachers. The event, coordinated by Shepherding the Next Generation – a national group of pastors and ministry leaders advocating for improvements in education – was held to pay tribute to and congratulate teachers for their hard work.
Teachers in more than 100 local churches were celebrated as part of the countywide event. During morning and afternoon worship service, participating pastors preached on the value of the teaching profession, and presented teachers with special gifts to express appreciation for their commitment to positively impact the lives of children.
"It feels really great to know that we are appreciated and valued outside of the classroom," said Brenda Taylor, fourth grade teacher at Ross Elementary and member of New Shelby Missionary Baptist Church (Collierville).
"I love teaching, and having the added support from my pastor and church members is a reminder that what teachers do really matters – not just to students and parents, but to the entire community."
In Shelby County, Shepherding the Next Generation is a diverse alliance of pastors and ministry leaders who have made a commitment to strongly support local efforts to improve public schools by going beyond their respective call of duty to help ensure that all children have the best chance at succeeding in school and later in life. Sunday was the third Celebration of Teachers event.
Pastor Brandon Walker of New Shelby Missionary Baptist Church and director of Shepherding the Next Generation – Shelby County says his organization wants to help parishioners and the broader community gain a better understanding of the significant role that teachers play in promoting individual and collective success.
"We started the annual Sunday Celebration of Teachers because we recognize that teachers often face unnecessary criticism and lack of respect for their profession, and we wanted to do something to uplift and empower them to continue." Walker said.
"Our (great) teachers play a significant role in educating and preparing the next generation of leaders, so we are honored to play a small part in building their faith and providing an added boost of support for the work that they do each day."
Since the collaborative formed in 2011, Shepherding the Next Generation has been actively involved in raising awareness and building community support for public education reform, and has championed initiatives to increase teacher effectiveness and to expand pre-kindergarten.
There are now 196 Shepherding the Next Generation members in Shelby County and an additional 283 throughout Tennessee. Increased participation in the collaborative has allowed faith-based leaders to enhance their reach and expand the Sunday Celebration of Teachers held this year by including more churches and educators.
In 2012 when the event was first introduced, 35 churches participated. This year that number has grown to include more than 100 churches throughout Memphis and Shelby County.
Pastors of Shepherding the Next Generation – Shelby County believe that keeping teacher morale high is critically important during a time when heightened local and national scrutiny has been placed on the transformative changes happening in public schools as a result of the schools' merger.
(To learn more about Shepherding the Next Generation, go to www.shepherdingthenextgeneration.com.)