When Betty White passed this past week, the tributes that poured out through all avenues of social media were overwhelmingly heartfelt messages of the delight she brought to people over a career that spanned decades. Many praised White for her tireless ability to make others smile. Many were in awe of her longevity.
I was in awe of how young she still was at 99 years of age.
Betty White makes an appearance every year in my AP English Lang classes around the time of the Super Bowl. I have the students try and watch the game – not for the actual sporting event, but for the commercials; they are great fodder for analyzing appeals and logical fallacies. In the days before the game, I show some of the best Super Bowl commercials from years past.
The Snickers commercial with Betty White from 2010 is the first one that I show.
That commercial literally relaunched an new phase of Betty White’s career. Not long after, there was a petition to get her to host Saturday Night Live. It worked. In fact, it was re-aired this past Saturday in tribute to her (as it should).
But if you listen to the most recent interview with her from days before she died, you could since the sharpest of minds and the effortless way she talked about what kept her young and energized. She loved what she did and she put others ahead of herself. She was a veteran who kept working at her craft, but never forgot that the power of a community of people is greater than the sum of their parts. She married energy, expertise, experience, and empathy into one being and people were better for it.
She was the veteran who kept working on her craft in order to keep helping people.
Because she loved it.
There are so many veteran teachers in this state who still have that energy, expertise, experience, and empathy so needed in our public schools who are literally being driven out of the classroom by our North Carolina General Assembly. Retirements are increasing and many teachers who could become veterans are choosing to leave the profession.
When a state does not pay its veterans what they are worth yet keep adding to their plates while all the time sowing disrespect for the profession, then it is not surprising to see an educator shortage and teacher pipeline that is drying up on a daily basis.
People like Phil Berger (aged 69) and Tim Moore (who is 51) do not appreciate veteran teachers. Their legislative actions more than prove that.
Ironically, Berger’s age would make him almost ancient in the public schools. Moore, if he had entered teaching as his first career would actually be approaching full-pension retirement age. Yet, they seem to want to keep doing their “jobs” despite their age. They may tout their experience and expertise and that they still have a lot “left in the tank.”
But can they point to their ability to empathize with the people they supposedly serve?
Veteran teachers can. And they would continue serving in the classrooms if they felt the respect they so deserve.
This world needed Betty White. She showed that age was just a number, but to many in the NCGA, age is a barrier. And our public schools are suffering for it.