Thank You Teachers—You Too, Are First Responders!

AACTE Reponds to COVID-19

Educator conducting a virtual learning session

During these unprecedent times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 schools across the country are closed and many switched to virtual learning. Remote schooling in many communities has added teacher as a new title for parents and caregivers. For those who already had to transition to work remotely and making necessary adjustments, they suddenly became the teacher for their children. This cumbersome role of parent as educator has challenged some to learn new concepts and navigate technology (e.g., google classroom or zoom). These challenges are no small feats, moving to online learning as the new normal while simultaneously attending to their professional work. 

However, when the abrupt end to the physical school year occurred, teachers quickly adapted to virtual classrooms and modified lessons to support learning at home, ensuring every student had the tools they needed to maintain a semblance of school. Others created new learning materials and innovative approaches, and developed virtual support groups to share materials not only with each other but with parents, their new “teacher colleague.” For disadvantaged students, they too are affected by school closings in myriad ways including no access to technology, parents’ working outside of the home, or limited financial resources or parental support, further creating educational inequity inherent in U.S. schools.

Whether in rural, suburban, or urban America, the emergence of greater appreciation for teachers and awareness for how hard they work is calling attention to viewing teachers as first responders. Students, parents, politicians, and even celebrities across the country have taken to social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) to express their gratitude. Since the pandemic seized the world, evidence of this appreciation globally is sparking a value for teachers and what they do. On Good Morning America on April 8, Prince William and Kate Middleton, who homeschool their children, were featured for thanking teachers who are working during the coronavirus pandemic.

As National Teacher Appreciation Day approaches on May 5, let us all take time to thank a teacher. While the pandemic has brought disruption (i.e., grief, financial difficulties, changes to daily lives etc.), it reminded us that most of our teachers are hardworking and effective. They are irreplaceable. Essential to teaching and learning, teachers change the lives of millions of students every day. They promote learning, help students make connections and nurture their confidence, and have a passion for teaching students. I am immensely grateful for the caring teachers who influenced my life. As medical experts and scientist are tackling this COVID-19 disease, let us also foster a renewed commitment and urgency to step up the performance of our education system as a meaningful way to show our gratitude to teachers. As we humbly continue to acknowledge and celebrate our health professionals and other first responders, let us add teachers as first responders! #teachersmatter

Gaёtane Jean-Marie is the dean, College of Education, Rowan University.