During the novel coronavirus pandemic, teachers have gone above and beyond to support their students.

By Zoe Denenberg
March 30, 2020
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Doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, pharmacists, delivery workers, janitorial staff, and countless other first responders top the list of people who deserve our gratitude right now. Another group that’s earned a big thank-you? Our nation’s educators.

“While we are all homeschooling/remotely/digitally educating our kids, if you need assistance with understanding something that has been assigned for your child, or if you need more resources, just give me a shout!” You may have seen this viral post copy and pasted to a friend’s status as you scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed last week. With the viral hashtag #bettertogether, many teachers have taken to social media to encourage parents to reach out for extra support.

As our society responds to unprecedented challenges brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, this is just one of the many ways that teachers have showed up for students, parents, and communities. With most of America’s schools shut down—some for the remainder of the academic year—online classes or homeschooling have become the norm. And in these trying times, teachers are going above and beyond to support their students.

Anna Glascock, a preschool teacher at St. Peter's Episcopal School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, streams virtual classes for her preschoolers every Monday through Friday. Some teachers (and celebrities) are reading books aloud on YouTube or Twitter; others are staying connected to their students through phone calls or FaceTime chats.

Some teachers have devised creative ways to show their support in person while still adhering to the guidelines of social distancing. The teachers of Longan Elementary and Seven Pines Elementary in Richmond, Virginia, held car parades, cruising through their students’ neighborhoods while holding up signs with messages like, “We Miss You Longan Lions! Love, Your Teachers.”

Florida teacher Rayna Overmyer, known as “Mrs. O” to her elementary students, spent her weekend driving to her students’ homes, writing uplifting chalk messages on the sidewalk, the Naples Daily News reports.

Sometimes, this support is not only symbolic but deeply tangible. “In addition to academic concerns, many educators are also helping students in need gain access to food and other essential items. Many districts are offering “grab and go” meals for students while school is out,” writes DonorsChoose, a nonprofit organization connecting teachers in need to donors looking to help.

When schools closed in Atlanta, Georgia, the Marietta City School System commissioned bus drivers to deliver lunches to children in need, 11 Alive reports. Maryland’s Anne Arundel County Public Schools expanded their food program to include 9 new locations, providing free breakfast, lunch, and dinner to children aged 2-18.

WATCH: School Bus Driver Surprises Passenger with Decorated Bus for 5th Birthday

All of these acts of kindness distill down to one common theme: Teachers care deeply about the well-being of their students, both inside and outside the classroom. For one high school teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the challenges her students face each day remain top of mind.

“I work in a community where unfortunately access is pretty limited and there are lots of systemic challenges all year, let alone during this time. Many of my students don’t have transportation, don’t have reliable internet access at home, may not have access to computers or other technology or may have one to share for the whole family, or rely on the school for their meals. That is the normal all year so this time just makes those challenges even more of a load to carry.”

How can a teacher or a parent remain an advocate for students in these circumstances? “I think it’s important to use this time to listen to young people, ask them what they want, and find ways to support their growth,” the teacher writes.

As homeschooling and online learning become the new norm, parents are realizing first-hand the challenges that teachers face each day and have taken to Twitter to express their gratitude. Some have called for pay raises for teachers, while others have simply lauded educators as heroes.

If you find yourself with a newfound sense of appreciation for the hard work our teachers and educators do every day, now is the time to say thank you. Whether that means supporting a classroom through an organization like DonorsChoose or AdoptAClassroom.org or simply sending a thank you note to your child’s teacher, no small gesture goes unnoticed. When asked for advice for parents to support their kids' learning, Elementary School Special Education Teacher Ms. Miller urged parents to reach out to their students' teachers. “They want to say hi and miss [their students] too!”

Now is the time to pay it forward and send a thank-you to some of our nation’s hard-working heroes.