Susan Gonzalez, Chalkbeat

Teacher Appreciation Week is a celebration of educators. But after more than a year of disrupted learning due to the coronavirus, a week of festivities feels both needed and insufficient in 2021.

If the pandemic made one thing clear, it’s that educators are more than just teachers at the front of classrooms. They are counselors and helpers. They are healers and advocates. They are artists and leaders. And for some students and families, they are the glue that holds their lives together.

So how do you say, “thank you” to the people who filled these roles and so many more during a school year filled with chaos and challenges? We asked our readers.

This is what you had to say about the teachers who helped so many students and families navigate a pandemic, remote learning, and more this past school year.

Teachers who helped outside of the classroom

Kathryn Van Mater
English, grades 9-10
Cheatham County Central High School | Ashland City, Tennessee
“Kathryn has taught for six years – all at CCCHS. She was named the Cheatham County School District’s 2020-2021 High School Teacher of the Year. At CCCHS, she is the student council sponsor and coordinates football homecoming. This year, Kathryn did an excellent job serving as the high school committee chairman for the district’s COVID-19 reopening plan. She has done an incredible job this year, working with both in-person and virtual students, and we are very fortunate to have her as part of our team.”
-Dr. Cathy Beck, Cheatham County Director of Schools

Morgan Dezsi
Science, eighth grade
South Vermillion Middle School | Clinton, Indiana
“Morgan is one of those rare teachers who cares more about the students than the subject she teaches. She incorporates fun projects into her curriculum to make learning more fun and tangible for all her students. She spends countless hours making sure they have what they need — whether it’s personal items for the young girls in her room, food for hungry kids, or lessons on Canvas.”
-Angel Spangler, colleague

Cathy Gohman
English, grades 10-12
Southwood Jr./Sr. High School | Wabash, Indiana

“Cathy goes above and beyond for students, parents, administrators, and her fellow teachers. At the beginning of the school year, I was on [family/medical] leave, and Cathy taught her full load of classes and filled in as English department chair while I was gone. She also mentored three of our younger teachers, was the English 12 virtual teacher for our corporation, taught Edmentum classes for students on the credit-recovery program, and serves as our high school’s representative at discussion meetings.”
– Michelle Sparling, colleague

Jessica Walters
Fourth grade
PS 243 – The Weeksville School | New York City
“Ms. Walters has been a teacher mentor, a teacher leader for District 16, a school model for classroom intervisitation, and more. Her effervescent personality, passion, tenacity, and innovation are recognized by our students, staff, and visitors to the building. Ms. Walters’ accomplishments and contributions to the Weeksville School reflect all the qualities of a true educator. She is a member of our literacy culture team and worked alongside her peers to revamp our school library. She redesigned the Weeksville School logo to better reflect our school community. When COVID-19 hit, she, along with her co-teacher, developed a comprehensive informational presentation to help parents and students transition to remote learning. The rapport she has built with students, parents, and staff reverberates through the Weeksville community.”
-Karen Hambright-Glover, principal

Teachers who couldn’t be stopped by the pandemic

Kristen Bates-Scott
George Washington Carver Montessori School 87 | Indianapolis
“She made Montessori learning possible during a pandemic.”
-Parent of student

Patrick Farley
Physical education, grades 7-12
Science Park High School | Newark, New Jersey
“Mr. Farley encourages students and colleagues to stay healthy (physically and mentally) and informed during the pandemic. He goes the extra mile [to make] sure his community is the best it can be.”
-Ashley Lourenco, student

Alberto Morales
English, ninth grade
Casco Bay High School | Portland, Maine
“Alberto is always giving of himself and his time and responds with incredible empathy to students, meeting them where they’re at and helping to bring them to their next level of learning. And on top of all that, he brought a teaching intern under his mentor wing for this entire pandemic year!”
-Lacey Lee, teaching intern

Teachers who went the extra mile for students and parents

Timothy Dailey
Music and band, grades 9-12
Horizon High School | Thornton, Colorado
“Mr. Dailey has gone above and beyond to provide marching, concert, and competition experiences for his students during this strangest of school years. He has found ways to build a community with his students whether they were in person, remote, quarantined, or any other combination of situations. He has been extremely patient, kind, and understanding while at the same time not lowering his expectations for each student to reach their full potential as a musician. Thank you for being an incredible teacher!”
-Kim Flanagan, parent of student

Alexandra Hernandez
Bilingual special education, grades 3-5
PS 257 – John F. Hylan School | New York City
“Ms. Hernandez has high expectations for all her students. She refers to her students as ‘my babies’ and values them as individuals and the strengths they bring to the classroom. She creates a welcoming classroom environment where they feel respected, loved, and safe.”
-Cynthia Felix Jeffers, colleague

Lorena Sanchez
Second grade
Rose Hill Elementary School | Kirkland, Washington
“There truly are no words to express our appreciation for Ms. Sanchez. During an unprecedented year, she was a bright light in our family’s home via Zoom each day. She is an amazing teacher and human being. We are so fortunate to have had her as our son’s second grade teacher.”
-Meghan Griffin, parent of a student

Romeo Ortiz
Special education, pre-school
JFTN Preschool – League Center | New York City
“Mr. Romeo is a truly passionate and dedicated teacher who strives to help all of his pre-school students with developmental disabilities meet their goals across all domains. He goes above and beyond, not only working with families and providers to ensure students’ success but also to help them become independent learners.”
-Diana Botet, parent of a student

Kelsey Erf
ELA-E, first grade
Valverde Elementary School | Denver
“Each and every student in Mrs. Erf’s classroom knows without a doubt that they are part of their class family. Mrs. Erf has created a classroom that speaks to emotional safety for all students whether through daily commitments, affirmations, or highlighting mistakes we make as simply an ‘OoPS’ (Opportunity to Problem Solve). Every one of Mrs. Erf’s students shows up with compassion and conviction, just as their teacher does.”
-Hanna Franzblau, parent of a student

Renelle Hopkins
First grade
Anna B. Day School | Philadelphia
“Mrs. Hopkins works day and night planning rigorous and joyful lessons for her first graders. She has incredibly high expectations for all her students and cultivates strong personal relationships with each student to maintain a positive, trusting classroom community.”
-Emily Powell, colleague

Don’t forget to follow Chalkbeat on social media. We’ll be celebrating even more teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week 2021 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.