Recognizing true heroes during Teacher Appreciation Week

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The school year is ending and the children of the Washougal School District have returned to our classrooms, to each other and to our teachers.

This year-long journey of educating children during a COVID pandemic has presented many unprecedented challenges, but it has also revealed that which we have known all along — that our teachers are the “heroes” of our society.

Our teachers can always be counted on to know, nurture and challenge all of our students, regardless of the circumstances. Our teachers will always go above and beyond the “call of duty” to ensure that our children are rising and that they are loved.

As I write this column to acknowledge our teachers during National Teacher Appreciation week, I am filled with gratitude and admiration for the impressive work to keep us all going this year.

Teaching via video conferencing? They switched on a dime to do this.

Working remotely and still creating engaging lessons and activities for students? No problem.

Reorganizing classroom spaces, teaching social distancing, handwashing routines and safety protocols? They’re on it.

Creating science kits, art projects, hands-on learning that could be delivered to hundreds of students? They did it.

Keeping up their excellent teaching, while missing the personal connections with students and support of their peers? They did that, too.

Making sure students knew their teacher was committed to their success and cared deeply about their future, without batting an eye? Check.

Our teachers continued connecting with families via Zoom and email, learning how the school could adjust and change to support students who were displaced, impacted and trying to cope with the drastic changes all of us experienced. The provided tutoring in the park, driving around to check on students, hosting drive-through supply pickups, making literally hundreds of phone calls to check on families and listening to struggling parents.

They did all of this and so much more.

We asked them to be constantly flexible, and as the health metrics allowed, to begin serving students in person, all while managing their own families, their own well-being, and doing it all with a smile, positive attitude and can-do spirit to help their students keep moving forward. They model the grit and determination to succeed that we seek to instill in our students. They are the drivers of our vision – knowing, nurturing and challenging all students to rise.

As we look forward to in-person graduation ceremonies and spring athletics, we acknowledge this year has been hard, and that so many of us have not been able to do the things we love. We are thankful for some return to “normalcy,” but understand we must still continue to sacrifice to ensure that we curb the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We remain optimistic that Washougal will stick together to follow health guidance and to get vaccinated.

The collective toll the pandemic has taken is significant, and the impact on our students, teachers and families has been great. We all look forward to a full return to in-person learning in the fall, as this year has underscored the significant social, emotional and academic benefits of being in a classroom with peers and caring adults. We look forward to watching our teacher “heroes” continue to build meaningful relationships, create classroom cultures that welcome all learners, champion each child and inspire our students to rise to their potential.

Now, more than ever, we need to come together and honor our teachers and signal the importance of their contribution to creating resilient and successful citizens.

I remain optimistic about the future of the Washougal School District. My optimism is anchored in the passion, commitment, determination and care our teachers have for our students and for each other. Please join me in saying “thank you” to our teachers and recognizing their important contribution to ensuring that our district is an educational destination.

Well done, teachers! We salute you.

Mary Templeton is the superintendent of the Washougal School District.