This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and we can’t recall a time when they have ever deserved our appreciation more! Since the switch to Distance Learning across the state, educators have scrambled to move their classrooms to a remote format and we are in awe of our educators’ commitment to ensuring each student has a chance to learn. As a community organizer, and in my role as the Lane County Director at Stand for Children, I get to speak with lots of teachers and parents every day about the challenges we face in this crisis, and what it means to keep our children engaged in learning and feeling positive. I am inspired, sometimes worried, and often moved to tears by what I hear.
Here is what I’ve heard from Oregon teachers in the past month:
“I’ve never worked harder in my life; we are working 14-hours a day.” Laura, high school teacher
“Each teacher is calling every one of our students’ families to see if they need food, internet, or any support. We keep calling until we reach them. We never stop or give up.” Joni, kindergarten teacher
“Every day I’m on email for hours answering my students’ questions about the homework. I want to get to their questions right away before they get frustrated or give up. I want them to know their teacher is still here for them.” Sarah, 6th grade teacher
Our community has come together to share so many heartfelt stories in the past few weeks. Teachers are working extreme hours and stepping up to go above and beyond for their students and community; many of them also with their own children at home. In March, when the reality hit that schools would have to close, I wasn’t sure how we could possibly ever keep school going; we seemed to have no choice but to end the school year.
Then, a miracle happened.
Our school districts, teachers, and community organizations and advocates stood up and said they would not abandon our children. They began cooking and delivering free meals for the thousands of kids who need meals. They set up safe child care for front-line workers. They were determined to get computers to every student. Counselors, teachers, administrators and assistants called every single student, every single family, and got devices in their hands.
With no time to spare, they got to work bringing the internet to every home, with wifi, hot spots, and even sending internet-equipped buses into neighborhoods.Every single Oregon teacher at every single Oregon school stepped up to implement Distance Learning for All. They put all their lessons on line, learned Zoom and Google classroom. They called and re-called kids who were hard to find, and whose parents had to work essential jobs. They reached out to reassure our kids: We are here for you. We are going to continue school. When those teachers call, the children feel cared for and they know they have not been abandoned.
What have the parents said?
“My kinder's teacher made the effort to drive by all of her students' houses to say 'hi' from afar, which I thought was amazing! And it made my kinder's day! The teacher called my child personally, it made him so happy.” Ceara, mom of 2 elementary children
“Our son’s teacher was on-line from day one, keeping the chemistry class going, and motivating the students. He figured out how to move the class on-line, and he is committed to making sure they pass this class.” Charlie, high school dad
We know that the inequities faced by low-income and marginalized children are still there, and are more stark in this crisis. So many are working hard — now more than ever — to overcome that injustice. This is no ordinary teacher appreciation week. This is a miraculous one.
The dedication from our teachers is astonishing, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.