Marilyn Whitney, Executive Director, IDeal – Idaho College Savings Program

May 1, 2024

During the week of May 6, the National PTA celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week. This year, the theme is “Teachers are Shining Stars!” This is an opportunity to show your appreciation for the vital role teachers play in the lives of our students. Whether it is at the pre-school, K through 12, or post-secondary level, teachers deserve our recognition and thanks.

I was fortunate to have many amazing teachers all through my educational experience. From my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Herzinger, to my high school mentor, Mrs. Franden, and my college advisor, Dr. Clark, I was encouraged, supported, and motived, especially when I faced challenges and setbacks.

These teachers were also instrumental in helping me on the pathway to college and through both my undergraduate and graduate programs. Many people credit a special teacher with influencing their decision to continue education after high school and pursue a given career. I had two high school teachers who not only took the time to talk to me about what I would study in college, they also helped me secure scholarships and student loans. I only wish my parents could have taken advantage of the tax benefits of saving for my college education a 529 account, which would have also minimized my student loan debt.

My high school teachers also influenced my decision to study education. While I taught for only a few years, I remember how demanding the job can be – from preparing lessons, to parent-teacher conferences, and the never-ending task of grading papers. But I also remember the sense of satisfaction I felt when my students succeeded.

While I did not stay in the classroom, my career has always included a link to the education world, and I have continued to encourage parents and students to plan for their education goals, especially how to save to make sure they have the financial resources to achieve those goals. In my current role, I have the opportunity to educate families about saving with IDeal by sharing my experience of saving for my daughter’s college education through the program. And I am now saving with IDeal for my grandchildren’s education.

I absolutely believe that teaching is a noble career. In fact, my daughter has been a kindergarten teacher for the past five years. Her first year was interrupted by the COVID pandemic, and I will never forget how heartbroken she was not to be able to finish the year with her kids. Thankfully, we all got through that difficult period, and I have a new appreciation of how important teachers are in our lives.

The National PTA has a “Thank a Teacher Toolkit” with some great ideas for showing appreciation to a special teacher:

  • Reach out and say “Thank You” to a teacher who made a difference in your life.
  • Give a teacher a gift card to a favorite store or restaurant.
  • Volunteer in a classroom.
  • Donate school supplies to a teacher.

This year as we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, take an opportunity to do something special for a teacher! I know from experience how meaningful it is to get a thank you note or to see or hear from a student years after they have left your classroom and learn what they have accomplished. Thank you to all the teachers out there! You truly are “Shining Stars”!

About the author:

Marilyn Whitney is the Executive Director of IDeal – Idaho College Savings Program. As of March 31, 2024, IDeal has 51,307 accounts with total assets of $821,745,426. Our client services number is 1-866-433-2533 and our local Idaho number is 1-208-332-2935.