Jeff Skinner and Josh Morrissey are happy to dole out A-pluses during Teacher Appreciation Week.
The celebration of teachers and the contributions they make to education and society is held during the first full week of May each year. It provides an opportunity for students, their parents and school principals to show their appreciation for the hard work teachers do and the long hours many of them put in.
For these two members of the National Hockey League Players' Association, it's an ideal way to honor those who make a difference inside and outside of the classroom.
"I think it's important to acknowledge teachers because of the impact they have on young people," said Skinner, a forward for the Buffalo Sabres. "The more prepared and educated young people are, the better off future generations will be."
In 2016, Skinner, then with the Carolina Hurricanes, launched his own initiative to honor local educators, called 53's Difference Makers. With his support, the charity recognized teachers at 15 Hurricanes home games throughout the 2016-17 season. Those selected received a $1,000 donation to their school, a $100 gift certificate to a teacher's store, four tickets to a Hurricanes game, and a postgame meet-and-greet.
"I think it's important to recognize teachers because of how big of an impact their job has on the future," said Skinner, who was taken by Carolina with the No. 7 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and traded to Buffalo on Aug. 2, 2018. "Also, a lot of teachers spend time and energy that goes above and beyond, and any time you can recognize and show appreciation for that kind of selflessness, it is a good thing to do."
Morrissey, a Winnipeg Jets defenseman who was named the 2012-13 Canadian Hockey League Scholastic Player of the Year Award, agrees.
"Teachers should be recognized for their work because they really are some of the most important people in shaping our future society," said Morrissey, who maintained a 92.4 percent average in his Grade 12 year at Carlton Comprehensive High School. "They make such a difference in so many peoples' lives, and there are countless stories of teachers doing whatever they can to help, often without recognition."
Skinner is happy to make sure teachers get acknowledgment for their efforts.
Though he doesn't point to one particular teacher for helping him along the way, the 26-year-old, who had an NHL career-best 40 goals with the Sabres this season, remains grateful for all the guidance he received over the years.
"I can't think of one specific name, but I was fortunate to have many great teachers growing up," Skinner said. "I don't think it always has to be how they teach a subject in school either. Sometimes, for me, it was a positive attitude or the way they approached a certain subject that can have the biggest impact on you as a student."
Morrissey, 24, who had an NHL career-high 31 points (six goals, 25 assists) this season despite being limited in 59 games by injuries, is grateful for the numerous teachers who understood his commitments to hockey and education.
"I was fortunate to have many great teachers, and it wouldn't be fair to single anyone out," he said. "That being said, they each shared some of the same qualities that really made them great teachers. I think what made them the best teachers were that they really cared about me as a student and wanted me to succeed, and they also went above and beyond to help me succeed even with a busy hockey schedule."
It's not only what Morrissey learned in the classroom that made his connection with teachers special.
"One of the most important qualities, I think, is the fact that teachers are there for students to talk to when they're going through tough times," he said. "The best teachers truly care about their students, and whether they know it or not, people really appreciate all they do."