May 24th, 2013
02:22 PM ET

A thank you, to the largest profession in America

By CNN's Christine Romans and Laurie Frankel

We can debate whether salaries should be tied to standardized test results, but that is for another day. Today we should recognize there is no other job like this one. Sometimes a teacher is what stands between life and death.

We've spent a fair amount of time covering education reform and a consensus emerges. The most important factor for a child's academic success is the quality of the teacher at the front of the room. As we learned again this week, it can also be the most important factor in their survival in a disaster.

When you drop your child off at school in the morning, you never think it's the last time you'll see your little boy or little girl.

But as we've learned too often in the past few months, there do come days when it just might be.

We listened to the the sound, captured on cellphone, of 25 terrified children, huddled inside an elementary school bathroom, as a massive tornado rains debris on them. You can hear 6th-grade teacher, Lynne Breton, trying to reassure them. She told them again and again, "You're okay. You're okay."

Rhonda Crosswhite put her body over her kids, while debris pummeled her. Her colleague Janice Brim says she followed procedure, thinking "This time is real" and remembering all their years of drills.

The leg of another was impaled by a desk as she huddled in front of her students.

And who can forget the choked up man who found a teacher crumpled under a car, three students under her.

"Way to go, Teach," he said before the tears flowed.

All of these teachers' instinct was to put themselves between their students and danger.

We saw it in Newtown.

We saw it in Oklahoma.

Thank you.

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