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A tribute to our teachers

Let’s face it... The year 2020 was one for the books—one that came with a learning curve for society. The adjustments we had to make last year carried over into 2021, and the effects of coronavirus underlined life’s “new normal.” Ask any student, parent, classroom instructor, or administrator and they’ll testify the world of education was and continues to be heavily impacted. Nonetheless, forward we go, thanks in part to educators. Take a moment to #ThankATeacher this week, May 3-7, during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Teachers change the lives of millions of children every day, and in a year where instruction can be virtual, in-person, or a mix of both, their immense work and impact have provided a much-needed sense of community and connection. Despite the challenges of a pandemic, educators across America and especially here in Emanuel are working hard to ensure every student has the tools needed to reach his or her fullest potential.

The Crossroads Chronicle reached out to school and system leaders across the county to obtain information and perspectives about the efforts of local teachers and what celebrations will take place as Teacher Appreciation Week is observed over the next few days. According to Emanuel County Schools’ Superintendent, Dr. Kevin A. Judy, each school within the public system, along with its PTO, plan individual celebrations for its teachers and staff, so the plans in place vary across the board. However, one thing remains constant, according to the school district’s leader: commitment and selflessness.

“Our teachers and entire school staff have done a phenomenal job this year supporting our students, families, and each other,” Dr. Judy said. “Oftentimes we find in our life that it is more about helping others than focusing on ourselves, and this year our school district has done that. I am proud of the dedication that our staff has shown throughout this school year. Our students have lived through adversity, and our faculty and staff have shown them how to persevere and make it through.”

The Chronicle also sent out an email to all Emanuel County Board of Education members on Friday, April 30, calling for each leader’s take on Teacher Appreciation Week as it relates to the contributions of local educators. Two members, Del Brown and John Allen Bailey, responded.

Brown said, “First, I would say that we have some of the best teachers anywhere in the country! They give of themselves daily to ensure our kids in our county are taken care of, educated, loved, and given the best opportunity to achieve. The pandemic certainly has tested many, and our teachers have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure our students received everything they needed daily to learn. Whether face-to-face or virtual, Emanuel County teachers stepped up and delivered. There are so many thanks to be given to all our teachers, and I personally want to say, ‘Thank you!’ from the bottom of my heart.”

Bailey, in his response, said, “I fully believe we have the best teachers in the state right here in Emanuel County. They have responded to the major obstacles we have encountered this year without moaning and groaning like many other systems I have heard about. The Emanuel County Schools teachers are dedicated to their students and put them first. I am truly blessed to be able to be a board member for this outstanding group of people.”

The Chronicle sent an email to area principals on Friday as well, asking for their input for this article. The following responses are what each principal wanted to say publicly about their respective school’s teachers.

Maria Daniels of Emanuel County Pre-K said, “The teachers at the Early Learning Center in Swainsboro really work hard to lay a foundation that other teachers can build upon. We are the first ones to ease the transition into the learning environment and soothe those nervous fears. Swainsboro Pre-K and Early Head Start teachers and faculty take pride in what they do, and they’re always ready and willing to do what it takes to make sure the children come first. Even during uncertain times and facing COVID-19, our teachers’ thoughts were of our students and how this would affect them. When it came time to return to school, our teachers went to work to ensure that pre-K and EHS would provide a safe and inviting learning center. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to every faculty and staff member at pre-K and EHS. Thank you for always going above and beyond to get the job done!”

Principal Valorie Watkins of Swainsboro Elementary called her staff “heroes,” honoring teachers’ and staff’s willingness to do all they could for the safety of others since Day 1 of the pandemic. “Everyone took on the challenge of this year with a positive attitude. The staff has made some sacrifices that have really brought us closer together; we all had to set up. I am proud and privileged to work alongside such an awesome family of educators,” she said. Watkins continued, “Our staff has been so flexible and open to doing things differently during this school year. They have been willing to cover classes at a moment’s notice. They’ve disinfected classrooms, wiped door handles, and kept students safe in the learning environment by making sure students were socially distanced as much as possible. Our teachers at SES have worked diligently to become familiar with the many facets of technology as well. Teachers have created lessons on Google Classroom and created work packets to help students catch up. They’ve scheduled Zoom meetings with parents and students modeling how to complete an assignment or lesson. They’ve also donated supplies for their classroom in order for students to have individualized classroom supplies since students weren’t able to share this year. All in all, our teachers have embraced the many changes with a smile and a positive outlook.”

Swainsboro Middle School Dr. Willie Gibson called his group a hard-working, dedicated one. “The teachers here at SMS, they’ve faced a lot of challenges this year due to COVID, and they’ve met those challenges with resilience and integrity. Our teachers have gone above and beyond to ensure our students have obtained the best we have to offer. At the beginning of the school year, I asked them to be flexible—and they met the request head-on. I am so proud of the teachers and staff here at Swainsboro Middle School. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!”

Dr. Denise Warnock of Swainsboro High School echoed similar statements. She commented, “Our teachers and other educators have demonstrated the significance of their role in our community, given recent challenges. As these past 14 months have shown, teachers make significant contributions that ensure our students’ well-being by providing academic, social, and emotional learning support. The onset of the pandemic was overnight, and our teachers quickly rallied to convert our face-to-face environment to a hybrid model with both face-to-face and online instruction options. These fabulous educators are to be applauded for the extra effort they put forth to create appropriate technology-based learning.”