By Howard Zeiderman

Someone once said that the first time you do something, it’s a revolution. The second time, it’s a tradition. Here at Touchstones, it has become a great annual tradition to honor volunteers and teachers whose time and talents help bring Touchstones—the organization and programs—to life. Each fall, Touchstones staff, volunteers, Board members, donors, and friends convene to share holiday cheer and celebrate our collective efforts. It’s a time to reflect on our progress in preparing all people—as critical thinkers and collaborative leaders—for success in school, work, and society.

At that event, we honor an educator who implements the project in exemplary ways as our “Teacher of the Year.” Last year, that award was renamed in memory of Geoff Comber, one of my fellow Touchstones co-founders. Geoff was a life-long crusader on behalf of teachers— particularly in public education. He spent his life working to support their continuing professional development and practice. During this year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have watched many teachers courageously rise to the challenge of overwhelming and unanticipated changes in education. We’ve heard their concerns and struggles in meeting their students’ needs—social and academic—and their worries about their students’ welfare. And we’ve been heartened by reports of how Touchpebbles and Touchstones discussions are invaluable tools for maintaining and rebuilding community at a time when our nation is increasingly separated— ideologically and physically. This year, the Board of Directors and staff find it only fitting to recognize all Touchstones teachers as exemplars of Geoff Comber’s indomitable spirit and faith in education. Please join me in recognizing teachers everywhere and especially Touchstones teachers—who go above and beyond to ensure their students’ voices are cultivated, heard, and valued—as our Geoffrey J. Comber Teachers of the Year.

To ensure teachers can accomplish this vital work and always have access to Touchstones programs, we rely on volunteers to help with outreach, advocacy, fundraising, and public programming. Our volunteers’ efforts mean our fundraising dollars and earned income can reach and engage even more people of all ages and regardless of their economic circumstance or background. Touchstones volunteers provide the invisible support, encouragement, and assistance that empowers our small but mighty staff to create a vast footprint—year after year. And so, each year we honor someone who exemplifies dedication and passion for the Touchstones mission through volunteer service. It is my honor to announce John Christensen as our 2020 Volunteer of the Year. For more than a decade, John has carefully stuffed thousands of envelopes to bring Touchstones news to the far reaches of the universe, encouraged and thanked donors, supported fundraising events with his brains and brawn, and been a constant friend. He represents the very best that volunteerism makes possible.