In 1953, Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged Congress to establish an official day to celebrate American educators. What began as National Teacher Day later evolved into National Teacher Appreciation Week. This American holiday has been celebrated the first week of May since 1984. To show our educators some love this week, school leaders and PTAs sent goodies to the school. Principals found a way to provide a duty-free lunch period. And, there may even have been a gift card placed in teachers’ mailboxes this week.

While it is certainly appropriate to share these gifts and communicate to teachers that we appreciate them, this year deserves something more specific. Over the past 14 months, teachers have made tremendous sacrifices, demonstrated significant flexibility, have learned new skills and methods, and have helped minimize the devastating effects of school closure for our students.

Specifically, thank you for quickly learning how to teach effectively online. After decades of traditional face-to-face instruction, you flipped the educational world upside-down and became fully virtual in a matter of weeks. Whether you embraced Zoom or Teams, you kept instruction occurring and gave our students access to their teachers so learning could continue. Thank you, teachers, for checking on our kids. When they did not show up to online classes, you made phone calls, sent parent emails, and even conducted home visits to be sure they were OK. You’ve shown great empathy to our students during this challenging school year. You’ve allowed late assignments to be submitted for credit. You have recorded lessons and posted them so students could watch them at a later time. Thank you.

Teachers, you have demonstrated unbelievable flexibility this school year. As mandates and guidelines changed, your schedule changed, then changed again. We’ve asked our teachers to roll from classroom to classroom on carts, without their typical resources, to help ensure our students remained safe in cohorts. We’ve asked them to wear face coverings while they teach, pass out hand sanitizer between each activity, and ensure that our students remained socially distanced as they returned to our buildings. Thank you.

Finally, thank you for welcoming our students back into our schools. Even behind the face coverings, your smile has encouraged our students. Your guidance has helped our students navigate the challenging societal issues that our country is experiencing. Thank you, teachers, for the unrelenting effort you have put forth to ensure our students are safe, are learning, and are growing into the leaders our communities will need in the future. You’ve done all of this without a raise or a bonus. You certainly deserve this week of appreciation.

Kevin Wheat is the principal of Allen Jay Prep Academy.

Kevin Wheat is the principal of Allen Jay Prep Academy.