By Juanice Gray, Editor
They nurture our preschoolers and kindergarteners. They open the world to our elementary schoolers and guide and council our middle and high schoolers.
Teachers not only instill knowledge, they instill a love of learning, are shoulders to lean on in tough times, give high fives for milestones large and small and for nine months a year, are our children’s second parents. They form lifetime bonds, become confidants and guide students through countless life lessons.
May 4-8 is Teacher Appreciation Week as well as School Food Service Appreciation Week, to recognize everyone who takes care of youth, whether it be academic, emotional, social or nutritional, each deserve recognition.
This year new avenues have opened to express gratitude. Traditionally, teachers and cafeteria workers have received cakes and cards but in the “new normal” those gestures are unavailable. The school board members and central office as well as the individual schools are being creative and innovative to get their messages out.
New superintendent Grant Eloi has been on the job only three weeks and has faced challenges and bridges not crossed before. “School Food Service personnel have passed out 40,000 meals after this week. That is from 12 sites,” he said Monday.
“(With Covid-19) teachers are struggling, but the district has still been business as usual, just from home. We’re making every effort to make kids feel supported and to get their feedback.” He said everyone from principals to teachers to support personnel have stepped up and done everything possible without being asked. “This district is so resilient. We’ve had not one complaint from any teacher. Every teacher wants to do whatever it takes,” he said.
Teachers have resorted to social media, zoom, jcampus, videos of story time, phone calls and texts to keep in touch, usually a couple times per week or more, to make sure their students know they are still readily available to help. The district has provided packets and some schools are providing incentives such as Dairy Queen treats for every completed packet returned to school. Some schools are providing incentives for completing reading assignments, math assignments and more.
“Learning has continued,” Eloi said.
As a new member of the community he said he has “… never been in a place that takes so much pride in their community.” He has plans for the future of the district. “I see the potential the district has. Of course I want to do well professionally and for the kids. It has been really positive to see the avenues afforded to me here. I see things that are positive, however there is always room for growth.”
Allie Erikson, Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction for ELA and social studies for K-8, said social media has been utilized as an educational resource for many teachers. “A (physical education) teacher has posted video challenges for physical activities and teachers are reading to their students online. An art teacher at LP Vaughn taught an entire online class in stages and at the end of the lesson the students had a completed project.”
Erikson said homes without internet service are an issue but hopes parents will take advantage of the numerous wifi hotspots at schools and at the Natchitoches Parish Library locations.
“Our teachers are doing a great job of celebrating the work students have done,” Erikson said. They are recognizing them on their school’s Facebook pages, during Zoom meetings, with texts and by calling. Students are connecting with their teachers at least twice a week on average.
So, for all the effort and hours these teachers, whom are all home, many with children of their own to educate and worry about, the parish says a collective “Thank You.” Your dedication has not gone unnoticed.
“We appreciate our teachers and staff so much and recognize they are the backbone of our system. They all go above and beyond every single day to touch the lives of their students. They are a pure blessing and I know they miss their students during this pandemic,” said Reba Phelps District 6 board member. The board placed banners around town and in the rural areas. The superintendent and several principals are posting videos on their school and the NPSB websites, an ad was placed in this edition of this newspaper and a dedicated email was established for parents and students to send personal messages to teachers.
“These teachers were not mandated to do this,” Eloi said. “They did it on their own. Every year teachers deserve Teacher Appreciation Week and cafeteria workers earn School Food Service Appreciation Week. This year they have really earned it!”