I recently called my god-sister at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night, and she was writing detailed report card comments for roughly 35 students and working on a lesson plan for her second-graders. She then told me that was the norm for her and she and her colleagues work together to supplement each other’s lesson plans to maximize learning for their students, many of whom have home lives that we cannot even fathom. The hardships that some of her young students face make teaching and learning a struggle at times, but there are literally thousands of teachers who continue to dedicate themselves to the future minds of our nation.

I took a poll of my friends who are teachers and almost all of them wake up at 5 a.m., constantly think of ways they can break through to their students who are struggling with a concept (or struggling at home or even in their homeless shelter) and save their salaries to buy items for their classrooms to make the experience more enjoyable and conducive to learning. I am always amazed at the level of dedication of the teachers in our K-12 system, those who work day in and day out for little recognition and, in far too many places, little compensation.

When I found out the amount of money most teachers spend to enhance the learning environment of their students, I was blown away. The number of schools missing what I would consider “basics” is appalling. How can elementary-aged students learn about art and creativity without construction paper, markers, crayons and those awkward little scissors? Many of the books that surround their classrooms and serve as portals to unknown worlds and new horizons are paid for by the teachers themselves. The dedication of some of these men and women should be in the forefront of our gratitude on a daily basis.

I have supported the organization Donors Choose for some time. This organization allows you to choose teachers, geographic locales and special projects you’d like to fund. Some of the items requested are pencils, notepads, small books, yoga mats, smart boards or just a carpet for students to have a sense of home. One of the best fundraising tactics they use is to ask you to donate to someone with your last name. I ended up donating to a young teacher in Kentucky who shared my last name. I knew nothing of his school except that he was trying to get more supplies for his students, most of whom live below the poverty line.

There are so many ways for us to support the teachers in our community and beyond. They are literally influencing the youth of America, and they must know they are supported in thought and action.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” the co-host of the new podcast FAQ-NYC and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com.