May 04, 2020

Teacher Appreciation Week takes on new meaning

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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When the pandemic suddenly shuttered schools across the state, first-grade teacher Maria Toepfer experienced a wide range of emotions: anger, fear, uncertainty and sadness.

“But the strongest emotion of all — passion,” the West Seneca teacher said. “Passion for our students. Passion for their love of learning and our love of teaching.”

Like teachers everywhere, Toepfer ran full speed ahead into the new normal: daily text messages, phone calls, letters, online read-alouds, endless You Tube videos and Google Meets. “We have stayed ‘connected’ by any means necessary,” Toepfer said. “We check on mental health, wellness, nutrition, physical, emotional and academic progress.”

maria toepfer
Maria Toepfer, first grade teacher, West Seneca Teachers Association. Photo by Becky Miller.

And as the days of teaching from home turned into months, educators like Toepfer did what they do best.

“We adjusted, we modified, we collaborated — we found SUCCESS,” Toepfer said. “We did what we always do … Teach.”

Welcome to Teacher Appreciation Week 2020.

For decades the National PTA has designated the first week of May as a week to honor the work of teachers. But this year, the May 4-8 celebration takes on new meaning as educators step up in unprecedented ways to meet their students’ academic and emotional needs.

“I’ve been so inspired by the countless stories of how educators have responded to this crisis,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “It’s truly a time to reflect on how educators are so central to their students and their communities.”

The public undoubtedly agrees. A new national poll by the National Education Association shows parents and guardians express extremely positive views of educators. More than 80 percent of parents/guardians view public school teachers very favorably, with 88 percent approving of how their children’s teachers are handling the COVID-19 fallout.  The poll also showed that parents/guardians believe educators are working hard to communicate with them, that educators are finding ways to connect with students who don’t have Internet access and they are giving their students more one-on-one assistance.

Media coverage has been favorable, too. Around the state, media accounts and social channels have highlighted impressive efforts by educators in districts large and small.

Hartford Faculty Association’s Allison Ward dons costumes to read stories to her students.

Rochester science teacher Gavin Jenkins posts videos showing his kids how to build a lava lamp from his kitchen counter.

Others take students on virtual nature walks and post online art shows and musical performances.

In addition to all the educational activities, members keep in touch with their students by making home visits...

conducting drive-by parades through town...


"Teachers do so much more than teach. And in these challenging times, we've all gotten a pretty clear glimpse at the immense work they do and the immeasurable impact they have on our children's lives," said National PTA President Leslie Boggs. "Now more than ever, we can all appreciate just how much teachers do, and it's even more important that we take the time to say thank you."

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