My wife’s retiring. Here’s a tribute to her — and all teachers.

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While I write this to honor my wife, Dawn Streets, upon her retirement from Chatham County Schools, I also hope to raise further awareness of and appreciation for the admirable work of all teachers.

Dawn officially had 30 years of service (29 in the classroom) at the end of this school year. However, if we count the fact that she was at the school by 6:30 each morning, worked another two to three hours at night, and additional hours on weekends — I imagine she had at least 40 years of service as a middle school teacher.

She did this while also being a wonderful mother and partner.

I remember her first classroom at East Lee Middle School in Sanford. We actually bought several bookcases and assembled them to create the fourth wall in a small alcove at the end of a hallway. This was just the first of many out-of-pocket expenses she had over the years to support quality instruction.

Hearing her talk about her school experiences over the supper table, I consistently felt her passion for teaching despite whatever challenges she encountered on any particular day. I came to understand that a dedicated teacher does much more than teach content.

The exemplary teacher — whom we all can remember — models professional behavior, inspires us to achieve more than we think we can, listens to our problems and helps resolve them, and goes the extra mile to make sure we are prepared for our next steps in school and in life.

I can’t recall any occasion when Dawn and I have gone to a local grocery store or restaurant when there hasn’t been at least one former or current student and/or parent who makes a point to say, “Hello, Ms. Streets.” On other occasions, where the clerk or cashier hears my name, commonly their response is, “Are you related to Ms. Streets? I love her. She was an amazing teacher.”

Let me brag a bit on Dawn. In addition to her experience at East Lee, Dawn taught at Horton, Perry Harrison and Margaret B. Pollard. She was selected “Teacher of the Year” at three of these schools. She earned her National Board Certification. She led the extracurricular Envirothon program at Perry Harrison and Pollard. She served as preceptor for numerous student teachers — some of whom are now teaching in Chatham County. Dawn served in various capacities to support beginning teachers. She led committees, developed curriculum, wrote grants, sought out professional development opportunities ... I could go on.

Let me conclude by saying how important it is that we honor the teaching profession. Our future largely depends on the expertise and dedication of all our teachers. It is critical that we do all we can to recruit and retain qualified teachers in Chatham County and beyond.

Dennis W. Streets recently retired as director of the Chatham Council on Aging.

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