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Teacher Appreciation Week Reflections: A Year of Gratitude, Challenges, and Progress

by Kerisa Baedke, Spanish educator at Waukee High School in Waukee, Iowa

The 2020-2021 school year – WOW! Who knew?

From the beginning of this year, until now, when talking with other educators throughout the state and across the country, the first question has been about our teaching situation. Are you in person, hybrid, synchronous, asynchronous, are you teaching kids in-person while simultaneously teaching kids online? The second question has been what are the infection rates in your county? The third question is how are the kids? The fourth question is how are you? Sometimes the answers to these questions have elicited tears. Yet, underlying the answers is strength, resilience, and determination.

This has been a year like no other. It has had its challenges every day for most educators. Yet we have made the most of it. We have learned new technologies. We have discovered what is most essential and have learned to focus on that. We have found new ways to allow students to be seen and heard through a computer screen. Some teachers have received advanced degrees! Some have written books. Many have built a boat while simultaneously navigating it down a fast-moving river. We have worried that we are not doing enough or are not doing it right, because we love our kids. Thankfully, in a sea of change, one constant has remained, educators love their kids!

The pandemic has made the ever-present inequities in our system visible to all. This year, educators have gone above and beyond to try to eliminate those inequities. Educators have gotten devices, books, school supplies, and meals into students’ hands. Educators have done wellness checks on their students at home. Educators have participated in hours and hours of professional development to learn new technologies to better teach our kids in this new environment.

There have been lots of tears this year. There has been uncertainty and anger at the learning environment conditions. There have been days when we’ve wondered if we are doing enough. In schools, we have followed the mitigation protocols to the letter to ensure everyone’s safety, while those teaching remotely have worked to create online spaces as close to the warmth and safety of our classrooms as possible. This year is not the same. I don’t think that school will ever be the same. However, one constant will be the commitment that educators have to students, parents, and communities. Educators, we are doing incredibly important work every single day. We are doing our best in very difficult times. Our students are learning and growing. I know it doesn’t look like last year, that’s okay. I’m okay. You’re okay. We are enough. We are extraordinary.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week. Thank you for who you are and all you do!

The NEA Foundation is committed to featuring diverse voices and perspectives about critical issues facing public education, students, and educators. These views do not necessarily reflect those of the NEA Foundation.
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