When I was a kid I loved superheroes. I remember wearing Wonder Woman Underoos, and having a crush on Michael Keaton after I saw him portray Batman. I think my fascination came from knowing these heroes would always defeat the villain, and at the end of the day, everyone could rest easy, safe and sound under the watchful eye of a hero with the power to protect the whole world.

Now, as an adult and parent, I long for that feeling of safety in a world that isn’t very safe. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a hero could fly across the night sky and rid the globe of every single bad guy? I can’t tell you how many times I wished for Superman to suddenly appear and speed into outer space to turn the planet backwards, causing time to be reversed, just enough to take away some of life’s hard parts.

I think that’s why they are still being made—these superhero movies that continue to grace the box office. Everybody needs a hero; even if heroes are just fantasy, and can only give us that feeling of security for 97 minutes.

Understanding the differences between fantasy and reality is just one of the thousands of concepts that will be addressed in classrooms across the country during the upcoming school year. So what better theme to use in my own classroom than superheroes?

As I was hanging Batman fabric on a bulletin board, and sticking Spiderman clings on the walls, I wondered if I was doing my students a disservice. Was it wrong to allow these kids to put their trust in someone so fantastic, yet fantasy? But then my “spidey sense” kicked in and I saw my school building as a sort of a superhero headquarters. I realized that these heroes do exist… and I was surrounded by them.

These heroes don’t wear masks and suits of iron. They don’t possess telepathic abilities and brute strength. They wear reading glasses and colorful sweaters. They are your child’s teachers, and although you may only see them in disguise, sitting at a desk during parent-teacher conferences, I have seen them in action.

Spiderman’s uncle once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I know now that he was talking about educators. You’ve heard it said that teachers have the power to change the future. But this power comes at a cost. It is a teacher’s responsibility to make sure they are prepared to share their knowledge with their students. They take classes and attend workshops and travel to conferences and sign up for book studies and spend countless hours reading research and blogs in search of this knowledge. And the time they spend away from their babies, while sometimes heartbreaking, is accepted because of the wisdom they will be able to share with their other children—the students they consider their own. Knowledge is their superpower.

To paraphrase Captain America, “The strength of this country isn’t in buildings of brick and steel. It’s in the hearts of those who live here.” Let me tell you about the hearts of teachers and the love they have for their students. I have seen a teacher bring the outgrown clothing of her own children for kids that are in need, and seen the stash of graham crackers in a teacher’s desk drawer for the child that comes in hungry every morning. I have seen a teacher share her lunchtime day after day, to sit and eat with the little one that is safer at school than she is at home, to make sure she feels secure somewhere. Love is her superpower.

I believe it was Commissioner Gordon that said, “You’re going to make a difference. A lot of times it won’t be huge, it won’t be visible even. But it will matter just the same.” There are so, so many things that go unseen by parents and students that make me proud to be a teacher. I am blessed to work with people that will gather early in the morning to pray for a co-worker battling cancer. Or give up a weekend to come and clean a teacher’s home when times have been tough. Or deliver drinks and snacks to a hospital waiting room and then sit and visit until the doctor appears. I am thankful I work with teachers that go above and beyond the educational job description, and care just as much about each other as they do their students. Kindness is their superpower.

These teachers…these superheroes…have hearts that are bigger than the Hulk and stronger than a Bat Signal. Teaching isn’t their job; it’s their passion. It’s the air they breathe and no sort of kryptonite can take this love of learning away. And your child is lucky enough to get to spend the school year with them. And that’s reality.

Kari Wells

Kari Wells is a small-town Nebraskan and wouldn’t have it any other way! She is a wife and the mother of two fabulous children. Kari has been a first grade teacher for 20 years and feels blessed to have had her summers free to take ‘One Tank Trips’ and little adventures, especially when her children were young. She is an avid baseball fan and roots for the Cubs, White Sox, Royals, Astros and Rangers. Besides her family and baseball, her loves include stargazing, traveling, cake decorating, and reading.