Thibodeau speaks to PdC teachers for in-service

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By Steve Van Kooten


On Aug. 29, the faculty and staff of the Prairie du Chien school district converged at the high school Performance Arts Center (PAC) to hear a speech from Tom Thibodeau, professional speaker, Professor at Viterbo University and founder of the Masters of Arts in Servant Leadership program. The speech, provided as part of the in-service events for the week before school started, was a moment to reflect on self-care, leadership and generativity.

Superintendent Andrew Banasik introduced Thibodeau and quickly relinquished the microphone for Thibodeau to speak for nearly an hour.

Thibodeau started with an acknowledgement of everyone in his audience and the importance of teachers, “It’s a noble profession.”

A major theme in the speech was that leadership is in the service of other people.

“Each of us is here today because an educator, a teacher, a coach, a neighbor, someone took a sincere interest in us in which we didn’t see ourselves,” Thibodeau explained. “They dedicated their lives in service to us. You are all leaders.”

Caregivers and self-care

Thibodeau said adults must never stop growing and learning. If a teacher stops researching and learning, their professional life suffers as does their personal life, such as their marriage, relationships and parenting. Teachers have many similarities to caregivers, a line of work that has a history of sacrifices and struggles and, for many, their care role is stretched beyond their vocation.

Thibodeau cited a Gallop poll that stated 23 percent of adults were in a caregiver role, some as parents and others caring for older adults. Many care providers are “sandwich caregivers” that have assumed those duties for both a younger and older generation. The poll also stated 50 percent of caregivers have experienced suicidal ideations.

An essential part of a teacher’s duties was self-maintenance: “If all the adults are exhausted, what are the kids getting?”

Role Models and positivity

Thibodeau related a story about his mother, who could remember students she hadn’t seen in 30 years. She not only remembered names but names of parents, living situations and details that were hidden under layers that had to be peeled back to be seen.

“If you teach people, you become part of a family,” Thibodeau said.

High school students, on average, have a friend group that is 25 percent smaller than a decade earlier, according to Thibodeau. 

“Remember going behind the bleachers to make sure kids weren’t making out? Now I wish they would!” Thibodeau’s point was children need direction; they thrive with leadership from their community’s adults.

“We all want to shine, and how many kids need an adult to be a shining light in their presence?” Thibodeau asked.

The First Day

The Prairie du Chien school district began the 2023-4 school year on Sept. 1, 2023. Children returned to familiar stomping grounds, stepped foot into unfamiliar territory or began the scholastic journey that will dominate their adolescent lives. Teachers were their to greet their students, to be shepherds in uncertain moments, cheerleaders in seconds of doubt and guides in times of failure.

Thibodeau’s lesson was that positivity brings out the strengths in people and manages their weaknesses. In a culture of efficiency where many people are, as Thibodeau called them, walking televisions, teachers have the opportunity to find a child’s needs and wants and help them find their way from unsure footing to a confident stride.

“You’re helping the community grow because you’re helping our children grow,” Thibodeau said as he addressed the group of teachers sat in the PAC auditorium seats. It’s a lesson well-worth remembering.

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