As we embark on 2021, I can’t help but reflect on this past year. I remember at this time last year; everyone was so excited about 2020. “2020 is going to the best year ever!” was a common statement as I scrolled through my Facebook feed. In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have predicted how the year 2020 would turn our lives upside down. It felt like the longest year ever with a Groundhog Day monotonous tone every day.
For my family the last year has brought many challenges. My husband and I committed to virtual kindergarten for our twins. After the first few days of virtual learning, my daughter just wasn’t having it. She stormed off screaming during her handwriting lesson, she cried and refused to participate throughout her math lesson on Zoom and more than once, she turned in a crumpled, torn up paper because she got so frustrated that her work wasn’t up to her standards. I too struggled in this new format of online learning, wondering what we had gotten ourselves into while simultaneously resorting to eating ice cream at lunch due to the stress of it all.
As my family navigated virtual kindergarten, I quickly realized that my twins had a one of a kind teacher. She persevered through each morning meeting with twenty wiggly kindergarten students with such ease and humor that it left me in awe. She handled interruptions, constant questions and being kicked off meetings due to connection issues with such grace and determination that it left me baffled. She had jam packed days of teaching math and reading small groups on a daily basis, planned and hosted live lessons, reviewed assignments and made it a point to get to know each of her students with such charm and resolve that it left me stunned.
As the novelty of virtual learning wore off, this inspiring teacher’s magic was just beginning. She committed to helping my daughter, who needed additional support with identifying her letters and sounds. She seamlessly changed her teaching approach after a few weeks of my daughter not catching on. She devoted four days a week, twenty minutes each day to my daughter by reciting an alphabet arc, practicing corresponding letter sounds and going on letter scavenger hunts. My daughter has almost achieved her goal within a short two months.
As the stress of working and managing three quarantined children ages five and under persisted, this amazing’s teacher’s enthusiasm for learning was all encompassing. She single handedly taught my son to read through a computer screen. She gave him strategies to distinguish between adding and subtracting a math equation. She taught him multiple facts about plants, animals, seasons, stars and the sun in science and social studies. My son’s face lit up as he ran outside each night to see how the moon changed for his very first science project.
As I entered the world of 504 meetings and accommodations, this compassionate teacher backed me every step of the way. My son needs to be able to eat and drink in small amounts throughout the day due to his allergic disease. She said that it did not interfere with his learning or affect the other students for my son to eat throughout his scheduled Zoom sessions. My son tends to have flare ups in the fall that make him very tired. She was very understanding when my son fell asleep and missed his afternoon class. “I completely agree with Mom,” she remarked on more than one occasion.
As my children embarked on their last week of Zoom prior to winter break, this teacher’s magnetism and charm transcended into our home. Her final remarks to her students involved reading often over the break and that she couldn’t wait to tell everyone Happy New Year soon. There was a strange, eerie silence when their class ended. My son turned to me and said,“ I am really going to miss her, mommy. Can I have just one day more with her?” My daughter quickly followed with a sad, “I am going to miss her too.”
I know that my children’s lives have been undoubtedly changed by a hardworking, devoted teacher. She gave them hope, confidence and light in a very uncertain time. She gave them comfort and companionship during a time of isolation. Most of all, she inspired them to grow and learn throughout an impossibly difficult year. From the bottom of my heart, I can’t thank the teachers enough who trudged forward and motivated their students, and parents, each and every day.