Oprah Winfrey said her fourth-grade teacher created a “spark for learning” and is why she had a talk show. Lin Manuel-Miranda said arts education “saved his life” and cited his sixth-grade music teacher. John Legend said his English teacher pushed him to apply for a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, which led to his becoming a successful songwriter.

Teachers have long played an important role in civil society. They shape, inspire, and change students’ lives. More broadly, America’s educated workforce separates it from other countries, leads to innovation, and fuels the economy. But as students head back to school, many districts can’t find enough teachers to fill the classrooms.