Let's start with your three.
1. They Educate Students: i.e. They give them information about topics from Reading, to Physics, to Typing, to Personal Hygiene, to Music, to Shop, to everything in between.
2. They inspire Students: They're not just "Professors" like you have in a college, a teacher is trained to teach students who don't want to be there.
3. They help Students find what they'd like to do in life: Hey Johnny, you're great at class A (shop/ Music/ Calculus... whatever) you know job B (Mechanics, Sound Engineers, Accountants... whatever) use that skill a lot. Maybe you should look into a potential career.
4. They are keepers of culture. Teachers teach what their constituents (in a public school, citizens, in a Catholic school, the Catholic church, etc, etc) find important. If a community wants a high school to have a Jazz band that performs around the community, there will likely sprout up such a program. If reading and writing poetry is important to a given town, likely that high school will provide additional extra-curriculars surrounding creative writing.
5. They are citizens themselves. Teachers are workers, taxpayers, and are even often active in both the local Democratic and Republican parties.
6. They're an economically stabilizing factor in a community. In good economies, teachers make less than most citizens, but if the town's Steel factory moves out of town, or the telecommunications plant closes it's doors, teachers are still working, paying taxes, and keeping the fall of that town (or suburb, or neighborhood, etc) and home prices, etc, too fast.
I want to add an additional thought. In Japan, teachers aren't paid very well. It's the same as it is in America. Teachers are among the least well paid 4 year college graduates out there. However, in Japan a teacher is honored and respected. Even the word "Sensei" carries a heavy weight to it, and is respected much like we respect the words: Doctor, or Executive. While physicians and business executives have high salaries and economic power in Japan, the honor connected to teaching has allowed a lot of their most intelligent individuals to go into that profession. In America, it was pointed out in a book I recently read, it used to be that the most intelligent women had 3 choices for jobs; Librarian, Nurse or Teacher. Teaching was probably the most academic of those 3 options. Today, American women can become physicians and executives themselves, so the most "motivated" women very often do just that today. America's teaching pool has suffered somewhat of a brain drain. We can't (and don't want to) return to the age when women couldn't become whatever they wanted to, so we should probably aim for a more respectful viewing of teachers. If the radio is constantly (like it does) complaining about teacher salaries, even while they're less than a Plumber's salary in the same community, we know fewer and fewer smart kids are going to go into teaching. Why put up with such a hard, underpaid profession when you'll just be whined about 24/7?
Answered By: Daniel Dawning - 10/5/2010