I am frequently asked, “What do you do for a career?” I often respond, “I was a teacher. I am a teacher. I will always be a teacher!” As you can probably tell I am proud to be a teacher! With Valentine’s Day and I Love to Read Month this February, I thought it fitting to write about one of my first and deepest passions -- excellence in teaching and learning. In my opinion, education is the most important profession in the world because it “provides opportunity, innovation and success for all.”

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. My parents placed great emphasis and support for our local public school, its teachers and for enhanced learning opportunities. So much so that two of their three children became teachers. In my family, education was and is a family affair. My mother was a paraprofessional for nearly 38 years. One of my brothers is a middle school educator, and my youngest daughter teaches elementary students. We are three generations of proud teachers!

I started my career 37 years ago as a Family and Consumer Science teacher at the middle and high school levels. I have since spent a little more than half of my professional career in an administrative capacity. Transitioning from the classroom into administration was a difficult decision for me because most importantly I would miss the one-on-one interaction and relationship-building with my students. I was afraid of losing the opportunity to witness the “light going on” when my student “got it.” I left the classroom believing that I could make a systemic difference through policy development, intentional resource management and collective decision making while at the same time impacting each individual classroom. Reflecting over my career, I believe this has occurred because at my core, I am a teacher. Every student, colleague and mentor I worked with helped me to become better.

Everyone, in every capacity, is a teacher! Education is more than standards, curriculum and assessments; it’s also about inspiring and building community. It is a purposeful way to make a positive impact and change a life and a community.

Teaching is truly a work of the heart. Education professionals work to determine and address top priorities for our present and future education systems while: providing educational excellence for all; closing the achievement gap; providing safety and security; and securing necessary support and connections. Engaging in discipline reform, addressing special education needs, envisioning opportunities for workforce development, collaborating with community partners, appropriately allocating resources, ensuring quality learning environments and more are what make education so exciting!

As our District team collaborates with regional and national leaders to address the teacher shortage through licensing reform and initiatives such as “Grow Your Own,” it is my privilege to encourage local students and community members thinking about a second career to consider education as a life-long profession. Currently, there is particular need for teachers in the areas of Career and Technical Education, Science, Mathematics, Special Education and English Language Learning.

At ISD 181, we are fortunate to have the best employees. These teachers contribute to our community and have a direct impact on students’ lives by creating access to academics, arts, activities and athletic realms. Teachers build bridges to transformational, life-shaping experiences.

Brainerd Public Schools has a solid foundation of excellence, community partnerships, and advocacy on education-related issues. As your superintendent, I will continue to support and to collaborate with parents, community and businesses, while working to provide equity in our schools. I will be a voice for the professional needs of our school district. Together, we will build upon the many successful efforts of the past.

I am deeply grateful for the hard work and dedication of our employees at ISD 181 and am filled with pride and fondness for our “Warrior Community.” Thank you for your support and for the incredible work you do as we advocate for continuous improvements to public education.

Regardless of career title, I will never forget that my roots are that of a teacher. When you get a chance, thank a teacher for the differences s/he has made in your life and continues to make in the lives of our learners every day as they educate, inspire, guide, support and change our students forever. There is no greater reward. I love being a teacher; it is truly a work of the heart.

Laine Larson is superintendent of Brainerd Public Schools