BEVERLY — When a high school athlete decides where to go to college, it's not unusual for the school to celebrate the decision with a ceremonial signing of a letter of intent.
On Monday, Beverly High School decided to co-opt the concept to honor a different group of students.
In a ceremony in the high school library attended by the state's commissioner of education, 14 Beverly High seniors signed letters of intent to become teachers.
The commissioner, Jeffrey Riley, said the Future Teaching Signing Day Ceremony was the first of its kind in Massachusetts. About a dozen other districts are planning similar events at the urging of the state education department.
"People say, 'You do all this for athletes,'" Riley said. "The reality is, our most important public resource is our teachers. As a society we need to recognize and re-prioritize what is most important. The people we put in front of our children every day are very important."
Caeden Hale, one of the students who signed a letter, said it was nice to be appreciated for choosing teaching as a profession.
"It's a field that's kind of looked down upon," said Hale, who is planning to attend Springfield College. "Nobody understands the impact that teachers have on people's life."
As part of the ceremony, the 14 students each mentioned an educator or two who inspired them to become a teacher. Jordan Butters, who will attend Southern New Hampshire University and hopes to become a math teacher, invited high school teacher Kristen Marescalchi.
"She's literally the best teacher I've ever had," Butters said. "She's amazing at her job and one of the nicest people I've ever known. I hope to become just like you someday."
Elizabeth Panico credited high school librarian Barbara Fecteau with inspiring her to want to become a librarian.
"Libraries are so important in today's society," said Panico, who will attend Simmons University. "Knowledge is power."
Beverly Middle School teacher Kristopher Melanson, who was selected by student Marshdeleen Hernandez as one of her inspirations, spoke on behalf of teachers.
Melanson told the future teachers that the profession is "complicated, complex and constantly shifting." He cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that 6.1 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD; 4.5 million with behavioral problems; 4.4 million with anxiety; and 1.9 million with depression.
"We need your compassion for all kids," he told the students. "We need your bravery to stand up and fight for what is right in school buildings across the country. We need your empathy and your ideas to help give every child a fighting chance."
In his remarks, Riley said he and his wife were "scared to death" when his daughter, who has special needs, went to kindergarten. But he said she has thrived because of her teachers.
"If you could see where my daughter was when she was 5 to where she is now, she has literally been saved by her teachers in the Boston Public Schools," he said. "They've developed her to a place where I never thought she would get. So teaching, in my humble opinion, is the most important profession because it's meaningful. You actually get the make changes in children's lives."
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.
Beverly High School future teachers and college plans
Jordan Butters, Southern New Hampshire University, math/secondary education
Beatrice Crocker, Simmons University, elementary education
Micah Davies, Dean College, school counselor
Danielle Deacon, Westfield State University, music education
Simone French, Salem State University, psychology/elementary education
Caeden Hale, Springfield College, secondary education
Marshdeleen Hernandez, Salem State University, school counseling
Matthew Miller, Salem State University, early childhood
Emily Negron, Curry College, school counseling
Chloe Panico, Anna Maria College, music teacher
Elizabeth Panico, Simmons University, school librarian
Rona Scott, University of Southern Maine, biology/secondary education
Andrew Shea, Westfield State University, elementary education
Lucien Thomas-Vickory, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, secondary education