By Dr. Susan Salcido
Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools
This week we celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week. During this time each year, school staff breakrooms are commonly brimming with homemade desserts; lunches for teachers are coordinated by Parent-Teacher Associations; and colorful posters and cards, filled with kind sentiments for teachers, adorn special spaces at schools countywide.
This year, the recognition for teachers must take on a completely different shape, and while we reflect on our appreciation of teachers from afar, let’s also broaden our thanks to children’s first teachers: their parents and guardians who are contributing to their children’s life lessons every day.
In the absence of in-person interactions, teachers are connecting with students during classes in authentic and important ways, finding solutions to unanticipated issues that are as novel as the coronavirus that has caused this new reality. To teachers, connecting with students online, making sure each individual is seen and noticed, trying out a silly joke to evoke a smile, checking on absent students after class, teaching rich content with compassion and empathy, we say thank you.
We recognize that many teachers are also parents with children who need their attention just as their students do. Some teachers have parents or family members who need extra care. Further, many serve as trusted advisers for other families who have questions about schooling and parenting during these uncertain times. We are grateful for the multiple roles you play as you support students and families, including your own.
As schools have shifted to remote learning, parents and guardians have had to adjust how they support their families at home. While parents are helping their children navigate online studies, they are also providing examples for their children with life’s lessons of grace, vulnerability, grit, hope, and optimism. Parents have had to handle so much so quickly, all while providing opportunities for their children to connect with teachers, keeping children’s hearts and minds engaged, and supporting their children’s real grief as they miss friends, routines, school, sports and events that can be so healthy and motivating. To parents and guardians, we say thank you, and we want you to know we appreciate how much more you are shouldering during these most unusual times.
As we enter into our Santa Barbara County’s eighth week of TK-12 grade campus closures, it is nearly impossible to overstate the appreciation for teachers, parents, and all those who are working to serve others — from frontline medical workers to the delivery drivers to those serving fresh food and meals to those in need. We thank those who contribute to the mental wellness of others, and teach by example, as we need that support in the deepest ways. Thanks to all who model compassion and kindness for their fellow humans, who stay at home to protect themselves and others, and who teach our children life’s lessons from a distance and from home.