TIME Honors ‘Educators Who Saved A Pandemic School Year’

By: Danielle Chazen

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TIME Magazine dedicated its latest issue, Education Heroes, to honoring the incredible individuals in the K-12 school system who supported students, parents and each other during a trying ‘pandemic school year’ which tested and challenged us all.

TIME’s cover dons a striking image. It showcases well-recognized yellow school buses surrounded by a likely lesser-known group of individuals, but who will now go down in the history of education as ‘The People Who Saved A School Year.’ This collection of individuals, includes everyone from educators to bus drivers who overcame the odds and made sacrifices and strides to ensure education continued.

The magazine itself and its online components feature 29 profile stories of these individuals who went to incredible lengths for students and the education system.

The stories are remarkable and heartwarming, including that of Melito Ramirez, an Intervention Specialist in Walla Walla, Washington, who went house to house to find students who had stopped attending class during the pandemic. An additional story speaks to the efforts made by Deana Dueño, a Librarian in Reston, Virginia, who ensured that books were placed in the hands of children despite the pandemic. When children could no longer come into Terraset Elementary School’s library, she began filling up her car and delivering curated collections of books to them, visiting up to 50 houses every Monday.

As a part of this series, US First Lady Dr. Jill Biden also penned an essay, A Tribute to Classroom Heroes, to honor the professionals who kept the school system and education afloat during these trying times. Dr. Biden was a school teacher herself for more than 30 years.

“Every classroom offers a sense of possibility amid the worn books and clean whiteboards at the start of the new school year. A new adventure, messy and magical, is about to begin. The anticipation and excitement of this time of year is one of the best parts of being a teacher,” she writes.

With continued uncertainty into the fall, ensuring the continued education of students along with their safety remains a high priority to so many. While time-tested systems fell apart in 2020, many were reinvented and reassessed with the addition of more technology, support and innovative techniques to ensure students remained engaged while remote and while distanced.

Now, educators have witnessed the true resilience of their students and themselves. Questioning old systems and archaic methods of teaching led to greater openness to new ideas and interesting methods to offer education in more engaging ways.

The pandemic school year was unlike any other, but students’ pandemic learning made the overall learning experience better for years to come. Methods of teaching and technology to support it evolved and improved hand-in-hand. With more testing, research and distance learning under their belts, educators are well-suited to meet the new needs of their students. They’re also well-suited to better understand and meet the unique needs of a variety of different students who struggled and continue to be faced with challenges.

Rather than let these various challenges, such as being distanced from peers, learning disabilities and physical disabilities, technology and many others stand in their students’ way, the education community has developed an openness to trying out new solutions to arm their students for success.

Verbit continues to help support school districts, community colleges, universities and eLearning platforms as this continued evolution and uncertainty takes place. For more ideas on how to embrace technology and new (and older) methods for improved engagement and education delivery, reach out to us.

Simple tweaks, such as adding captions to your Zoom calls with students and Zoom meetings with parents, can help to fuel more effective communication, which is something we all need to feel connected and supported by one another during these times and beyond them. As students head back to school, both in-person and online, educators, parents and students themselves should continue to check in with one another and lean on each other.

There are so many tools now at our fingertips to ensure each and every student with diverse needs and goals has access to what they need to succeed and engage in their studies. Offering help to each other proactively will ensure no one on any end of the education system is suffering silently.