A stand for teachers

Published 8:25 pm Monday, April 28, 2014

Charles Leavell, pastor of Open Hands Christian Fellowship Church, is finally ready to turn in his assignment.

More than a year ago, he felt led to honor Suffolk teachers in a special ceremony, but the plans got temporarily derailed. Earlier this week, he described how good he felt to be finally ready to complete the task that he believes God gave him.

“This was an appointed event,” he said as he outlined plans for the “I Am Because You Were” tribute to teachers now set for 6 p.m. Saturday at King’s Fork High School. “I tell people this was an assignment (from God). God wouldn’t let me quit.”

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Leavell has planned a program that includes student performers; Gospel singers; short speeches by prominent local citizens; reminders about the dangers and struggles teachers face and the difference they can make in their students’ lives; and a few words from some of Suffolk’s top educators.

Leavell’s wife used to be a teacher, so he has a special understanding of the challenges they face in their careers. There aren’t many eight-hour days for teachers. Multi-tasking is a way of life, and having to take work home is an inescapable fact. Teachers’ clients can be surly and unappreciative, and they’re often too quick to blame teachers when education fails to produce a perfect life.

Not to mention the fact that the pay starts low and — as most public school teachers in Suffolk can attest — tends to stagnate or even decline after a few years of service.

Knowing all these things about teachers, Leavell has a heart to lift them up. Besides the need to be obedient to what he believes God has led him to do, he has a personal drive in the matter that is evident in his speech, his mannerisms, his smile and his energy.

He will not rest until this program is complete, until whatever teachers choose to attend on Saturday get a clear picture of how they’re loved, respected and appreciated in their community, regardless of any current situation with pay raises, bonuses or even student performance. Leavell appreciates the demanding nature of their job, and he’s prepared to expend quite a bit of effort to show that appreciation.

Especially in these times of tough city budgets that seem to overlook teachers, it’s good to know there are private citizens in Suffolk who are willing to step up and make a public stand on their behalf. In case you’d like to attend the event and show your own appreciation, it’s free and open to the public. For more information, call Leavell at 692-9740.