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Today and every day, thank a teacher for what they do

There is probably no other group of people looking forward to the end of this month more than teachers.

Roughly three weeks from now, a 14-month roller coaster will reach the gate, a group of weary teachers exiting down the ramp.

It’s been a tough coronavirus pandemic for us all, and our teachers are no exception. In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, which wrapped up Friday, I’d like to say a few words about the importance of teachers.

Full disclosure: My wife is a high school English teacher, and I have the utmost respect for how hard she works to connect with her students and encourage them to not be afraid to reach for their dreams.

Here is a quote she put on her Facebook wall this week, which sums up her philosophy on education:

“Every kid needs someone on their side to prove to them that God is on their side.” — Reggie Joiner.

Through her time teaching at multiple schools, my time in school, and my childrens’ experience with educators, I personally know a plethora of teachers who share a similar creed — they exist to unleash the inner spark in every child.

Never was the spark so difficult to engage than last spring, when the uncertainty of COVID-19 forced many schools to abruptly close and quickly pivot to remote learning. Districts had long angled themselves to increase their tech capacity, but the final two months of the spring 2020 school year was a slog for teachers, students, and parents.

Connection gets lost on a computer screen, and inequities with internet accessibility became evident. Teachers did many things to creatively connect with their students, but learning was harder than ever.

Try as they might, I’m a firm believer that progress was stunted during this time.

Take my house for instance — because of where we live, we had less-than-ideal internet at the time. On most mornings, my fourth-grade daughter and kindergarten daughter were trying to do their lessons simultaneously, our older girl acting as a “teacher” to our youngest because Betsy was virtually teaching in the other room. Zoom delays and frustration became as much a part of our daily routine as breakfast.

Summer 2020 brought uncertainty for us all, and, while it brought a breather for educators, we can all agree it was the strangest and most unsettling summer of our lives. A big part of that for teachers and families of students was the cloud hanging over — what would school look like when it was time to restart?

The fall brought a flurried mishmash. Some districts were in person, some were not. Some went in and out based upon outbreaks and quarantine rules. Protective gear was brought into school so that, even when classes were in session, they looked and felt differently. Football games were played in near-empty stadiums.

Those that were in person were able to recaptivate some of the magic of interaction and learning, but it was different. Hugs and high fives were frowned upon.

In the winter, that new way became a little more comfortable, but we all grew tired of the lingering virus. We had hoped it would be done by now, but it wasn’t, and it meant more activities lost for students, more subideal teaching conditions.

Spring has brought with it light, but also the stark reality that this whole thing is still not quite over, despite the proliferation of vaccines. The warmer weather has improved the outlook, and traditional things like senior prom are happening.

It has added up to a whirlwind for teachers, who, like so many other workers during this dark time, have stepped up to the plate and gladly put themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of those they serve.

If you see a teacher this week, thank them. I guarantee they’ve made an impact on some kid’s life that has made life in 2020-21 a little bit easier.

Better yet, if you see a teacher this week, buy them a coffee. They’re running on fumes as they coast to the end of this school year’s roller coaster ride.

Jeremy Speer is the publisher of The Courier in Findlay, Ohio, The Advertiser-Tribune in Tiffin, Ohio, and Review Times in Fostoria, Ohio. He can be reached at jeremyspeer@thecourier.com or jspeer@advertiser-tribune.com.

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