Whether it be in the traditional classroom setting or through the internet on a computer screen, teachers across Alabama are working to make sure students receive the best education they can during a year turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Alabama State Department of Education is honoring educators for all their hard work as part of “Thank Alabama Teachers Week.” The event began Monday and runs through Saturday.
Athens City Schools Acting Superintendent Beth Patton said the schools normally have parents and others coming in for events during the week to honor teachers, but due to COVID-19, those in-person meetings have been canceled this year.
“We are doing mostly shout-outs on social media and asking people to share their stories,” she said.
School Board President Russell Johnson said working during the pandemic has been very trying on the teachers in the system, but he said they have done a tremendous job trying to make this school year feel as normal as possible.
“My granddaughter started kindergarten this year, and she doesn't know this is a different kind of year,” Johnson said. “We decided before the school year began that these kids have to be in these schools, because so many don't have the support structure at home to be successful.”
He said the whole school system has been “phenomenal,” and the school board is “really proud of all of them.”
Patton echoed Johnson's sentiment, saying this school year has been especially stressful for teachers, but they have been resilient.
“The teachers and staff throughout the school system have been so committed and determined to make this work,” she said. “They know the students need to be in school.”
The novel coronavirus has necessitated some big changes this school year, with teachers having to keep up with students who may be transitioning back and forth between traditional and remote learning due to quarantining as well as attempting to ensure their own health and safety.
“(COVID-19) has impacted everything we've done,” Patton said. “We can't have parents and volunteers come to the schools like normal, and we've had to change the way we teach because our students normally collaborate on projects while working in groups. We have had them collaborate more using their iPads because of social distancing.”
Limestone County Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse said his system always wants to make sure their teachers are recognized. He said each school is showing its appreciation to teachers, though much like ACS, visitors are not being allowed to come in this school year due to COVID-19.
“We have had some events in the past where we had retired teachers come in, because we want to honor both past and present teachers,” Shearouse said. “We didn't do that this year because we have to restrict the number of people coming in.”
Those these may be stressful times, Shearouse said he is “really excited” this year because LCS is going to be able to give a salary enhancement of $1,000 to each employee in December as a way to show appreciation.
“It shows how much we respect and admire our teachers and staff and what they do,” he said.