5 Educators Who Went Above and Beyond During COVID-19
Written by Aylin Cook
This Teacher Appreciation Week, the HopSkipDrive team wants to express its gratitude to all teachers. We know the past year has been full of unprecedented challenges, hardships, and unknowns. Yet, throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many educators have gone above and beyond to help their students learn, adapt, or simply feel seen.
Here are five of our favorite stories about superstar teachers and educators during COVID-19:
Southern California teacher hosts virtual bedtime stories, cooking classes, and current affairs debates
Erin Haendael teaches 5th and 6th grade at a small school in Santa Monica. When schools implemented virtual learning, she looked for educational opportunities that complimented at-home learning. For example, she began teaching math and geography through cooking lessons.
She also hosts an optional bedtime story each week. She told the Santa Monica Daily Press that students log on to Zoom in their pajamas, clutching stuffed animals.
“We get to read together,” she said.
Haendael has also added an optional Zoom meeting where students can discuss and debate current events.
Detroit-based special education teacher learns to teach job skills through DIY projects
Amy Munday, a Detroit special educator, teaches job skills like problem-solving and teamwork to young adult students who have cognitive impairments. She needed to find a new way to get through to her students once in-person learning came to a halt.
Munday, who was in the middle of a basement renovation when schools shuttered, realized that do-it-yourself (DIY) projects could be a unique teaching opportunity. She began sourcing old, unwanted furniture on Facebook.
Soon, she created Skill-ful Designs, a class that teaches her students to revitalize old home goods into sellable, beautiful, and unique furniture.
Boston teacher lets herself get vulnerable with her students
Joellen Persad, who teaches physics at a Boston High School, permitted herself to share her struggles with her students.
At first, the young teacher wanted to hide how COVID-related challenges were affecting her emotional well-being. Finally, a student noticed. Persad realized that by offering her students authenticity, they were able to re-energize her.
“They truly have healed me,” she told USA Today. “I want to be my best self so that I can pour myself into them as much as possible.”
Houston teacher supports her community in every which way
The minute Houston schools suspended in-person learning, fifth-grade teacher Lori Douglass wanted to help in any way she could. She has handed out Chromebooks to her students, dropped off groceries at the home of a high-risk colleague, and so much more.
Douglass also hand-delivered books, packets, and headphones to all of her students’ doorsteps. She even provided her cell phone number so her students could get in touch whenever about whatever.
She also hosts casual virtual gatherings where her students can socialize, blow off steam, and have fun.
“I just want them to know somebody cares about them and loves them and will follow up on them,” she told Texas AFT, a statewide union.
Atlanta Principal supports his students and helps them get the resources they need
Finally, at Atlanta-area principal has given his school—and his students—everything he’s got. When his school closed in mid-March of 2020, Ethan Suber devoted himself to keeping teachers and students in communication.
For Suber, that means calling parents, working in the middle of the night, encouraging students and teachers, and even dropping homework off on students’ doorsteps.
Suber knew on the first day of virtual learning that the school shutdown looked a little different for every family. Yes, some kids were online and ready to learn, but not all. Many students didn’t have the right equipment to complete their coursework at home.
So Suber printed out those students’ coursework and left it outside for parents to pick up.
“We’re trying to do this virtual learning thing,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Not all families have access to all the resources, he added. “But they still want to support their children,” he said.
Suber put together a team to call all families and find out what they needed. From WiFi to fresh food to stable housing, Suber went above and beyond for his school’s families.
As Suber uncovered, virtual learning is not so simple for many of the country’s most vulnerable students. Students experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, and kids experiencing financial hardship can struggle to connect virtually.
Fortunately, some dedicated educators are doing everything they can to ensure their students keep learning. Still, when it is safe to do so, in-person learning is essential in achieving educational equity.
Want to learn more about outstanding educators? This article tells the story of 6 Black educators who championed educational equity.