By Paola Gilliam, November 25, 2020
This year has been unrelentingly difficult in many ways, yet educators have repeatedly risen to the occasion. Faced with events—a pandemic, political uncertainty, protests against racial injustice, and more—that have left many of us feeling overwhelmed, educators have been a beacon of hope in their communities through their continued support for their fellow educators, students, and families. All of us at Public Impact are thankful for educators who have shown compassion, innovation, and determination throughout an incredibly challenging year.
When the pandemic first shut down schools, Opportunity Culture Fellow Candace Butler shared with us that prioritizing relationships with students, families, and teachers on her team was more important than ever. She kept staying connected—with students to share positivity and to personalize learning, with parents to ensure that the school was providing basic resources and academic materials, and with her team teachers to plan and to encourage self-care. Educators across the country showed us that personal relationships are essential to effective teaching and learning and to an engaged community. Though it may look different than previous years, teachers keep making a difference to students, families, and their teams.
To adapt quickly to remote learning, districts and educators had to innovate fast to help students learn effectively.
“There’s no reason in today’s world with the technology resources that we have that we can’t provide the same high-quality instruction, maybe even a little bit better, to be honest, because we can take away the barriers of certain grade levels, dropping kids into different groups, and having teachers do things that are a little outside of their normal scope of work,” said Jeremy Baugh, an Opportunity Culture principal in Indianapolis Public Schools. In his school, educators quickly prepared a new routine to provide live learning, personalized support, and fun activities for students. We appreciate how educators managed to create engaging lessons and activities for students, despite the distance and technological constraints.
Even when there were no clear guidelines for how to respond, Opportunity Culture educators jumped to give schools and students support. In Gentry, Arkansas, the district’s first multi-classroom leaders were told of their new titles in March and expected to begin their roles this fall. But when Covid demanded a 48-hour turnaround from in-school to at-home learning, they stepped up to lead immediately. They created a video library with resources for students, parents, and teachers to use as they adjusted to online learning. In other districts, such as Lincoln Consolidated and Guilford County, multi-classroom leaders led as well. The pandemic couldn’t stop the drive these educators feel to make education accessible for all students—an act that we are grateful for.
Though many of our stories this year focused on how educators responded to the pandemic, schools and educators also responded to the systemic racism highlighted in this year’s protests with new lesson plans, activities, and commitments to create a more equitable space for all students and educators. (We plan to share more on this soon.)
Through the tumultuous and unpredictable year we’ve had, educators have been a source of comfort and support. We’ll offer extra thanks this year for the stability and creativity that they have offered to students, families, and communities.
Note: The photos accompanying this post have all been provided by Opportunity Culture educators across the country—one more thing we’re thankful for, given that, to our frustration, we can’t make our usual visits to Opportunity Culture schools to interview and film great educators at work. Thank you to all of you for documenting 2020!
Below: Opportunity Culture Fellow Patti Newsom shared photos from the fourth-grade class book study and at-home clothespin doll project for which students were given a bag of supplies, a clothespin, and a family questionnaire to complete at home.
“It was our hope that families would come together and discuss where they came from, who they are, and traditions that make them so different yet so special…to realize that Being Different is a BEAUTIFUL Thing!” Newsom wrote.