Local teacher Sydney van Bulck is the winner of the Golden Pen for her letter to the editor about the sacrifices and rewards of teaching and why she chose to participate in the May 1 rally in Columbia.

“Because we have the right, we have the obligation,” she wrote. “This is why I am choosing to make my voice heard.”

Ms. Van Bulck said she loved her job, watching children grow from kindergarten through the fifth grade.

“It is a blessing. It is an honor. It is exhausting,” she wrote. “You worry if you are giving your best to them.” And she admitted that, this year, her students hadn’t gotten her best but “what I have left.”

She described living paycheck to paycheck and keeping up with a hectic schedule despite a car accident.

“Three days a week when the school bells ring, I stay behind to tutor. Most weekends, I baby-sit at least one if not both nights. ... I make and sell jewelry on the side,” she wrote, pointing out that her teaching assistant earned less than half of what she does.

She complained that her 4-year-olds were required to take three standardized tests each year, and the test itself was culturally biased.

“Enough is enough,” she wrote. “Teachers deserve better. Students deserve better. Our future deserves better.”

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Ms. Van Bulck concluded by urging her fellow teachers to let their hearts dictate whether they traveled to Columbia to demonstrate or stuck it out with their students in classrooms.

“If you want to march beside me, I’ve got a sign for you. I just hope that everyone who reads this does something on Wednesday to show support for the teachers in their lives. ... We give our lives for your children, so I hope you will have our backs.”

The Golden Pen is awarded monthly, and winners are invited to an annual luncheon with the editorial staff.

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