In its seventh year, thousands of teachers across Orange County Public Schools began receiving letters from graduating seniors letting them know how they changed their lives. It’s called “Project Impact: Teachers Change Lives.”
This week, Superintendent Maria Vazquez surprised several teachers delivering senior letters personally to express her gratitude for their hard work. This year’s letters drew more tears as the teachers heard the touching words written just for them by a former student.
“It’s been a good year, but it’s also been a hard year,” said Superintendent Vazquez. “To be able to see the reaction of the teachers and how grateful they are gives me great joy and it also reaffirms that we really are heading in the right direction. We need to continue to focus, celebrate, and support our people and our kids are going to benefit from that.”
More than 5,000 senior letters were written this year and will either be mailed to or personally delivered next week to the intended teachers. Superintendent Vazquez kicked things off by visiting three schools including Lake Nona Middle School. She hand-delivered five framed letters.
These visits begin annually during Teacher Appreciation Week which runs May 7th-13th. Although OCPS says they celebrate teachers all year, the appreciation week is celebrated with special gifts secured by the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools. The gifts come from Central Florida community partners totaling more than $6.4 million including, Fun Spot America season passes, Orlando Magic ticket to a fall season game, Dezerland Park Orlando tickets, free Racetrack coffee this week and two teachers won $600 in gas cards, IMPROV Orlando tickets, Kelen Designs jewelry, and many other gifts.
“It’s about acknowledging all that they do that we don’t see, that parents don’t see, that students don’t see,” Superintendent Vazquez said. “The sacrifices that they make by taking time away from their own family, their own children who are in school. And, while we do need to work on salaries and make sure that the wages are comparable with all the work they are doing, we can also let them know how much we value them, how important they are, the impact that they have, and that’s why these letters just reaffirm what they have done for our kids.”
“We need to celebrate the great people in our district,” Superintendent Vazquez added. “That means our students, that means our teachers, that means our staff, and that really warms my heart.”