For centuries, society has adapted to changes in its surroundings whether it be the prosperity of the Industrial Revolution, the despair of World War II, or the pandemic of 2020. We shift, we compromise, we create, and we do what must be done to survive. Though the narrative has been the same, that doesn't make this period of tribulation any less difficult. Everyone has felt it in one way or another, including students both young and old, and their teachers who have made the impossible, possible.
We see examples of humans adapting across many disciplines. In literature, in the classic novel Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, Victor Frankenstein states, "Nothing is so painful to the human mind, as a great and sudden change." This comes after Victor experienced great loss and is trying to grapple with what his life now lacks. In science, Viktor Frankl, an Australian neurologist also states, "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." To put this into context, this is the same man who spent nearly three years in concentration camps. In 1945, U.S. troops liberated the camp in which he was imprisoned and within a few days, he found out that his entire family had been killed. Yet, he was still challenged to find a new way not just to live, but to thrive. In math, Isaac Newton adapted to isolation during the 1665 plague by inventing calculus.
We have been challenged, we have felt loss, and we have had to change the way we function – but we've still searched for good. It doesn't come as a surprise that we found many a good thing come in the form of teachers showing up for their students and loving them despite the physical barriers between them.
We asked the community for stories of CCSD teachers going the extra mile and this is what we found…
Caroline Manus - Hickory Flat Elementary
Ms. Caroline Manus, a Kindergarten teacher at Hickory Flat Elementary, made an impression on a mom, as she has been connecting with her class using live conferences and Flipgrid to make sure she's still getting face-to-face time with her students. Ms. Manus as well as her para-pro, Ms. Susan Moon, have taken online learning a step further as they've had weekly one-on-one reading conferences with each of their students. This student's Mom, Kelsea, stated, "Those reading conferences have really made my son feel connected and special, but I know they take SO much time from the teacher/para's week – it really shows how much they care about the students and not just putting a check in the box."
Cheryl Gazaway - Clayton Elementary
Ms. Cheryl Gazaway, of Clayton Elementary, was also noted as being particularly helpful during this time: "She has gone above and beyond with communication and reaching out to make sure her children are doing well…she spent over an hour with my son on a one-on-one video chat to help him with his journal, just chatting and making him smile. We have been so blessed to have her as our teacher."
One mother reached out with her perspective, having a daughter who is a teacher at Hasty Elementary: "I have seen her cry because she misses 'her kids' at school. She worries daily if they have the love and support she provides at school. She worries if they are safe and have a full belly…Every day she tells me how she can't wait to get back to school and will never again wish for a snow day!"
Ball Ground Elementary
One little boy had a very special surprise from his teachers, Ms. Thurman, Ms. Jordan, and his 1-1 aid, Ms. Thomas. He was staying safe at home when his teachers drove by his house to let him know just how much they missed him and loved him. They even left a little care package, complete with a stuffed animal, which is now his favorite!
Joseph Salter - Dean Rusk Middle School
Last but by no means least, we wanted to hear from a CCSD teacher about the bright spots he has experienced with his students during this trial. Mr. Joseph Salter, a chorus director at Dean Rusk Middle School, has experienced quite a shift in daily activities. He described his typical day pre-pandemic as being action-packed and full of friendly faces, laughter, special "aha" moments, and the occasional musical breakthrough. Here's what he had to say about his shift to digital teaching:
Brad Kelley having a one-on-one
with his teacher, Ms. Christina Markley
"My fellow CCSD music colleagues and I have been sharing lessons that will engage our chorus students in creative ways. We strive to keep them interested, entertained, and on their toes. I also like to keep them guessing with fun and occasionally silly activities mixed in with the challenging content that I would normally present. These amazing young people have kept me smiling by sending encouraging notes and e-mails as well as two wonderful birthday videos that literally brought me to tears. In return, I sent them a video of my wife and me singing a song from Frozen that they were originally scheduled to perform for the spring musical. This whole experience has made me appreciate the face-to-face time I normally have with them each day, and I can confidently say I will not take that for granted in the future."
Just as Viktor Frankl found a new way in which to live after loss, these teachers have done the same, and have taken their students in their inspirational wake. Teachers across the nation are showing up, even though it may be on a computer screen – and for that we are grateful.
So, to our Cherokee County School District teachers – thank you for being present. Thank you for working to connect with your students. Thank you for seeing the good and adapting to circumstances. You are rock stars – and it hasn't gone unnoticed.