About Sylvia Denice

Sylvia Denice started her teaching career as an upper-elementary teacher and is now a middle school special educator in Indianapolis, Indiana. She serves as Vice Chairman of Renaissance Kids, Inc., a non-profit organization committed to supporting Indianapolis youth through social, emotional, cultural, and academic programming. In addition to writing for The Educator's Room, Sylvia has been featured as a guest blogger for Indy Education, a publication under the Citizen Education network.

Until I became an educator, I never imagined superheroism influencing my professional life. Thus far, my teaching career has been marked by the release of several Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Justice League films. I have taught many a super superhero fan and acquired my own taste for the superhero genre through my fourth graders’ enthusiasm when the Black Panther film released in 2018. This year, we anticipated and enjoyed superhero cinema through  The Incredibles 2, Captain Marvel, and, my personal 2019 favorite, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (now available on Netflix if you haven’t seen it yet… thank me later). Superheroes are fictional characters we admire for their benevolence and exceptional superhuman abilities. We love to watch them accomplish impossible feats like flying unassisted over skylines, breathing underwater without scuba gear, lifting cars with their bare hands, and swinging between buildings by web.

It should come as no surprise, then, that teachers are often compared to superheroes. They, too, accomplish seemingly impossible and benevolent feats. In any given day as a teacher I can attend a morning staff meeting, teach three different courses, attend two different PLCs, miss a lunch, lead a case conference, and supervise an after-school detention session on few hours of sleep after a night of grading and lesson planning; I even manage to smile through most of it. A day in the life of a teacher can seem superheroic.

As teachers, we have popularly taken to this superheroism with flattery and acceptance. I have been gifted shirts and cups featuring the phrase: “I Teach: What’s Your Superpower?” The phrase is cute, and “superheroes” makes a fabulous theme for any super staff. Eventually, though, the theme, phrase, and expectations for the superhero teacher are exhausting. There is one thing I know for sure about teachers: we are super; we are also human. Thankfully, teaching has awakened me to some of my most flawed and human characteristics. However, the expectation that teachers transcend natural human limitations can take its toll.

There is one thing I know for sure about teachers: we are super; we are also human. Click To Tweet

I love the acknowledgment of teachers and their hard work, care, time, and even money invested in the best interest of students past, present, and future. I also know from my own harsh reality teachers cannot best care for students without first taking care of themselves. Much responsibility is put on teachers for what goes on at school; and, seeing as teachers are the adult supervisors of our youth for 180 days of the year, this is appropriate.

As neighbors, colleagues, administrators, students, parents, families, and friends of teachers, it is our responsibility to acknowledge not just their incredibility, but also their humanity. Teachers are no longer the sole deliverers of content. We are mediators, planners, caregivers, facilitators, models, problem-solvers, communicators, coordinators, learners, and listeners. You will not, however, catch me running at lightning speed, traveling through time, or shapeshifting anytime soon. To anyone who holds an esteemed teacher in your mind as a superhero, thank you; thank you for noticing the good work, and thank you for the compliment. For now, I’m a teacher leaving the superheroism to the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, reminding myself teachers are benevolently human.

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