Best of Springfield

BEST UNSUNG HEROES

All teachers

click to enlarge PAINTING BY FELICIA OLIN
Painting by Felicia Olin

Teachers were never in it for the pay or accolades to begin with, and the pandemic has only added to the undercompensated chaos for many of them. Whether teaching remotely or in-person, the year has been unpredictable and full of new challenges. In March, all students were sent home under the governor's stay-at-home mandate. While parochial schools have sent kids and teachers back to the classroom, the Springfield public school district began the 2020-'21 school year remotely for all.

While the school day in District 186 has been somewhat abbreviated, to around five hours on average, that doesn't mean teachers have worked any less. Most would likely tell you they work longer days than ever. Countless hours go into lesson plans and mastering new technology, not to mention all the time spent on trouble-shooting said technology and working one-on-one with students who need extra support.

Teachers provide a public service while also caring for their own families and managing their own emergencies, as well as those of their students, pandemic or not. What has become crystal clear is their role is far beyond instructor alone, veering toward social worker. They make sure kids have food and other necessities. They check on students' emotional well-being, which has been made harder these days. Meanwhile, they live with uncertainty, as it's unclear how the pandemic will proceed and what it will mean for schools.

With the goal of mitigating the spread of the new coronavirus, some teachers are scheduled to continue teaching remotely through at least the end of the calendar year. And even for those who do return to the classroom, the "new normal" is anything but normal.

During a time where there are no easy answers, many still expect teachers to be full of them. Their steadfastness in leading the way and serving as stewards for our future deserves infinite appreciation.

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