This time, we’d like to thank our teacher heroes after over a year of COVID-19.

The school year is coming to a close after seemingly endless months of quickly adapting to the pandemic. Constantly, teachers faced the challenges of educating kids remotely alternating with ever-changing safety protocols. It remains a juggling act that would be exhausting for anyone.

Like many frontline workers, teachers often felt stuck in the middle, forced to choose between risking their lives and livelihoods. Even some who always wanted to be teachers considered leaving or retiring. Those who remained often faced serious risks to remain in the jobs they love. 

Truly, they are teacher heroes, in many cases putting their lives on the line every day. Sadly, news of beloved teachers who became seriously ill or died from COVID-19 continues. Fortunately, as most school districts resume in-person schooling, vaccines for teachers in all states promise to save lives.

Words can never express how thankful we are for teachers and other everyday heroes in the past year. 

We’re hopeful the year ahead will bring much-needed relief for teachers and all frontline workers. Thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do.

Recognizing Creative Teacher Heroes

In many areas, coronavirus sent kids home for the year in March 2020. However, that didn’t mean learning stopped. Instead, teachers needed to adapt fast, finding ways to keep kids engaged. In many new ways, teachers continued doing what they always do, sparking kid’s imaginations and interest in learning.

Home Teaching Studios 

In Senatobia, Mississippi, elementary school teacher Haley Omedeo got creative. She turned a shed in her backyard into her online teaching studio. Then, when she appeared on their screens, they would see a familiar schoolroom setting. Thus, colorful posters, a blackboard, and supplies appeared behind her. 

An ordinary chair served to hold her laptop as she did all she could to give kids a sense of structure from home.

“I just wanted to do something that created a space where my kids still felt comfortable and could learn,” Omedeo told WMC5.

Haley Omedeo
Haley Omedeo, screenshot via WMC5.

Daily Morning Messages from the Principal

For Principal Wynne Earle in Memphis, he began sharing a daily morning announcement for parents and kids.

“A lot of parents are just thankful that we’re doing something that serves as an alarm clock for them, an alert letting them know their day has to get started,” said Earle, Kingsbury Elementary School principal.

Principal Wynne Earle
Principal Wynne Earle via Facebook

Virtual Buddy System

Meanwhile, in Olive Branch, Mississippi, seventh-grade teacher Karina Dey found a way to keep a reading “buddy” program going. Normally, the seventh graders would read to their first-grade buddies. So, Dey encouraged her older kids to record videos for the younger ones.

“My hope is that my kids realize that even when you’re faced with challenges, and there’s struggles and sadness around you that you can still find ways to stay positive and happy,” Dey told WMC5.

Earning Digital Badges

Dave Peterson, a fifth-grade teacher at Juniper Elementary in Escondido, took on the challenge of keeping online learning interesting. He knew he had to make it as entertaining as possible.

“The challenge is for us to make it engaging, high interest,” said Peterson. “We also have to give them some incentive to show up,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

To keep kids engaged, he created digital badges inspired by gaming rewards. When kids completed assignments, they earned a digital badge.

Online Learning’s Silver Lining

San Pasqual High School teacher Jennifer Medeiros found a “silver lining” in the flexibility of online learning. Learning online has helped some students to learn at their own pace, which she now expects to bring to the classroom.

“I think that this has worked well in allowing students to work at their pace,” said Medeiros. “It’s really created these opportunities for students to engage with the content in the way that works best for them. Now that we have learned the tools that allow that to happen, there’s no reason that can’t happen in a classroom setting, or an online setting, or a blended learning setting.”

Thus, this time in isolation may improve education for many kids in the long-term.

TikTok with the ‘Quaranteens’

Colleague Rebecca McKinney, a science teacher, met her “quaranteens,” as the Tribune dubbed them, on TikTok, the popular video app.

For their assignments, they created science videos inspired by their favorite movies and music. The assignments made the isolation more bearable, but McKinney acknowledges it’s not the same.

“Teachers adore their students,” McKinney said. “They’re our kids. So not being able to give them a hug because they’re sad, or make a silly joke to make them smile, that has been the hardest part.”‘

Below, see a funny compilation of “TikTok Teachers” below:

Online Poetry Slam

Medeiros says her sophomore students loved the two online poetry slam workshops featuring local California artists held this year. Students used Zoom teleconferencing to interact with artists to write their own poetry.

“We wanted to provide that opportunity for our students and also support the local artists, who are also struggling right now,” Medeiros said. 

Most students who participated in the first event also attended the second one, enjoying the unique experience.

Related: Artists Across the Country Share ‘Rock Art’ to Help Get Through Pandemic

Virtual Field Trip Friday

At Del Dios Academy in Escondido, seventh-grade language arts teacher Natalie Smith started a “Field Trip Friday” event. 

“Every Friday, I would have somewhere for them to go from their home. We were doing a unit on the ocean and used webcams from an aquarium. They could choose Georgia Aquarium or the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We used it as a chance for them to work on descriptive writing skills.”

The virtual field trips were a sweet escape for her students, which they would describe for their writing assignments.

Notably, anybody can take a virtual field trip. For example, the National Aquarium in Baltimore offers virtual visits on their website. See more below from WQRF:

Related: People are Sharing Vaccine Selfies to Celebrate and Encourage Others

Thank You to All Teacher Heroes

Most adults never thought the pandemic would last this long. Over a year later, it’s taken a toll on everyone, particularly parents and kids learning remotely. Even before the pandemic, technology was creating less real-life interaction with others. But afterward, people are feeling more isolated than ever.

In the year ahead, we look forward to coming together again safely. Always, we’ll remember and appreciate the creative teacher heroes who bravely faced new challenges to educate kids nationwide.

They did it all for the love of teaching and their kids –and they made a difference.

As Professor Christopher Emdin, a noted author of the Obama White House, says:

“To teach is to have the opportunity to live forever. There is no other profession where one has as many opportunities to change the world.”

Featured image: Screenshots via YouTube/TikTok