Next week, school communities across the country will celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, but Tulsa has started a bit early by celebrating teachers throughout this week. The theme for this year’s special week is “Teachers Deliver.”

From helping our littlest learners master their ABCs and 123s, to supporting high school students on their path to college and careers, teachers inspire our next generation of leaders. And for that, Tulsa parents and community members are grateful.

Although our appreciation for educators spans year around, we wanted to take this special opportunity to highlight just a few of the many ways that Tulsa teachers deliver.

Unwavering Dedication: As school communities across Tulsa and the country face severe budget challenges, teachers often spend their own money to ensure that students have a positive educational experience and engaging learning environment.

So many teachers use personal resources to decorate classrooms, invest in the latest instructional materials, and provide additional support for students in need. The state of Oklahoma ranks among the lowest states for teacher pay, so these contributions can often mean big sacrifices for our educators.

Working around the Clock: Most teachers’ work hours extend far beyond the start and finish of the school day. Here in Oklahoma, teachers are contractually obligated to be at school for a certain amount of time before the bell rings in the morning, and certain amount of time after school dismisses.

However, many teachers spend at least two to three hours at school beyond contract time grading papers, holding parent and teacher conferences, lesson planning, meeting with instructional teams, and pursuing professional development.

And this does not include the time that teachers dedicate to leading extracurricular activities or planning school-wide events all to give students a well-rounded education that allows them to explore their interest and have some fun.

Going that extra mile: Teachers make a difference in the lives of so many kids in so many ways. They are role models, leaders and inspirations who are never too busy to offer some extra help, push students to reach the next level of mastery or provide constructive criticism.

From burning the midnight oil thinking of strategies and approaches that will help engage that one student who keeps sleeping in class to partnering with other teachers to increase rigor and push students who are already high-performing, our teachers go above and beyond.

Teachers understand when a student shows up without a pencil it does not mean he or she does not care about school. We’ve even seen teachers go shopping for kids who are need of a uniform because having it is the difference between the student coming to school or staying at home. Our educators are sensitive to the needs of kids and want, above all, to see them soar.

Stephanie Allen Brown is the Director of Educator Coaching at Teach For America – Greater Tulsa.