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Gratitude for teachers runs deep amid pandemic

Teacher Appreciation Week looks different this year but has never been more important.

AVON LAKE, Ohio — If your dining room has morphed into a makeshift science lab, and you now consider “zooming” a household verb, you know firsthand that school is looking a whole lot different these days.

Sure, it hasn’t been easy.  But teachers are making it work, just like they always do. And though there is never a wrong time to say ‘thank you’, the week of May 4th through May 8th is the time when we should all pause and show our appreciation.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a champion for teachers and back in the 1950’s she fought for a day to recognize their contributions. National Teacher’s Day was approved by Congress. And in the 80’s it became a weeklong celebration.  

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This year, however, our gratitude runs deeper as teachers rise to the occasion finding creative solutions to challenges for which there really are no lesson plans.

“You are more than a teacher. You’re wearing many, many hats for these kids and they rely on you and depend on you,” shared Cari Harvanec, a 7th-grade science and social studies teacher at Hillside Middle School in Parma.  Keeping her students engaged and connected at times has forced Harvanec to get creative. Everyone making a Zoom call gets a ticket. Students whose names are pulled and those who perform well on a weekly quiz get a basket of goodies delivered personally by their teacher.

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“This is a tough time. A lot of parents have lost jobs. A lot of them are working and they have young small kids at home. So the older kids are watching the younger kids. You can tell with some of the kids they stressors they have, this is just tough. They are taking on a lot of responsibility right now,” she added.

We went along as Mrs. Harvanec dropped off the basket to student Lizzy McKay’s home, a reward for scoring well on the week’s quiz.

“Hi, how are things going? Is everything okay? You seem to be getting everything in, like a rock star,” Harvanek said from a safe distance at McKay’s front doorstep.

The student told us her teacher has made a huge impact during these challenging times.

“Mrs. Harvanek is one of the sweetest teachers I’ve ever had. She is so nice to everyone,” McKay said.

 From encouraging videos from teachers to silly dance routines on TikTok, and drive-by parades in front of students’ homes, teachers are wearing more hats these days.  It’s not just about instruction but also teaching lessons of love too.

We profiled Clearview teacher Amy Jackson, who helps distribute food to families in the parking lot of Vincent Elementary School at the start of every week. She didn’t see the faces of her kindergarten class, during the distribution. And Jackson knew, some of those families were hurting financially. “I had a couple of parents say, ‘I need food.’ I said ‘I’m on it and we will get you what you need,’” Jackson recalled.  So, she set out, delivering more education materials, and dropping of food too. The first week, Jackson held up a sign for her kindergarten class, letting them know how much she cares for them. By the next week, Jackson was met with signs by the children, expressing their love for her. 

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So, this week, it’s up to us to say ‘thanks’.  Students in Avon Lake sent cell phone videos to their teachers.

Sisters Bianca and Marissa Craig told their teachers, “Thank you for teaching us all that we need to know and for making us better people.”

Lauren Post said,” Even though we can’t come to school, thank you for still teaching us.”

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Students also couldn’t help but tell their teachers how much they are missed. “I really miss Miss Delotel because she helps me with my math homework, “said Alex Maynard. His sister Kennedy misses the way her teachers made her smile. “I miss coming to school every day and teachers telling me riddles and jokes.”

Kaylen and Nolan Martin miss their teachers too!

“Thank you, Mrs. Romito, for helping me and making school so fun,” said Kaylen. Nolan held up a small cut of his kindergarten teacher Mrs. Jones.  “Thank you for Zoom teaching me every day Mrs. Jones, I love you!”

Brenda Jones felt that love on Sunday when Nolan and his classmates from Erieview Elementary in Avon Lake formed a caravan of love past their teacher’s home.  A surprise that brought the teacher to tears, as she felt the admiration of students and parents alike.

These days teachers are high on the list of heroes, getting us through it all. To all educators please know that especially now, we are grateful for your service and your passion.