From May 2 to May 6, Berkeley High School (BHS) celebrated Staff Appreciation Week by holding a raffle for the staff of approximately 320. By the end of the week, the school was able to hand out 223 prizes, with four of them being, “grand prizes”. The funds for the prizes were raised by local businesses, as well as the generous donations of BHS parents.
Throughout the raffle, winners were selected through the use of an online random name generator. Some prizes, such as coffee, mugs, and hats, were delivered to the classroom by students. The others were picked up from stores by the winners. Staff also received hourly emails listing the winners, and the gifts they had won.
Karl Kaku, a Berkeley International High School (BIHS) English teacher, expressed his excitement at winning a grand prize, saying that he felt “lucky.” He explained that the raffle is a “fun way to build community,” though it doesn’t rectify the larger struggles faced by teachers, such as long hours and no overtime pay.
“We work hard and we work in conditions that are tough,” Kaku said. “We don’t get overtime. I know a lot of teachers that work at least 50 hours a week. … We go above and beyond the contract.”
Mary McKee, a BIHS Economics and World History teacher, elaborated on the need for teacher appreciation in wider society. “My sense of not feeling appreciated doesn’t necessarily have to do with what Berkeley High School does,” McKee said. “I feel unappreciated by the society at large, I feel unappreciated by the system at play, and I feel unappreciated [with] how little money I make … so much of it is bigger and more systemic than Berkeley High School could ever deal with.”
McKee explained how the long-term issues that define the way teachers are appreciated cannot be solved with a raffle or a “week’s worth of praise.”
Kaku also examined the lack of appreciation for teachers in the country, which can be seen in low salaries and little to no overtime pay.
“It’s nice to be recognized, but looking at the big picture, [a raffle] doesn’t change our society’s view of educators,” Kaku said. “You tell someone you value them by paying them.”
Dan Plonsey, a BHS math teacher, was happy when he won a Peet’s gift card in the raffle, but emphasized the need for teacher appreciation beyond BHS.
In terms of the district’s treatment of teachers, he said that felt, “less appreciated than toilet paper.”
“The further you get from the classroom, the less you are appreciated,” Plonsey said. “In the administration and the district, they just see us as interchangeable, like I’ll leave, [and they’ll] plug in a new one, like a light bulb … The state of California doesn’t appreciate teachers. They are just interested in running things.”