Teaching Profession

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. See How 3 Educators Are Helping Students During COVID-19

By Madeline Will — May 03, 2020 4 min read
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When the coronavirus outbreak shuttered school buildings, teachers were asked to quickly transition to remote instruction, while also trying to meet the social-emotional needs of their students during scary, uncertain times.

It has been tough, exhausting work, many teachers say. Even so, there have been many inspiring examples of teachers making sure their students are engaged and feel safe and secure. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week on May 4-8, here are three stories of teachers doing whatever they can to help students during the coronavirus pandemic.

See: In Unprecedented Times, These Principals Are Going All Out on Teacher Appreciation

1. An Alabama teacher is using his stimulus check to pay for some of his students’ utility bills.

Kent Chambers, a math teacher at Bob Jones High School in Madison, Ala., donated half of his $1,200 stimulus check to pay the utility bills for the families of three of his students. He knew those families were struggling financially, and he wanted to help.

“I’m actually in better shape because I’m not having to pay for gas to drive to work and I’m still getting paid the exact same amount,” he told CNN. “There’s no need for me to take the money and splurge and do something reckless with the money. Let’s help somebody that really needs it.”

Chambers made the payments anonymously, so the families would see they had zero balance when they checked their account, according to CNN. The money should cover their bills for about two months, he said. He donated the remaining $600 from his stimulus check to the burn care center at Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati.

2. A Connecticut teacher is taking care of her student’s newborn brother while his family recovers from COVID-19.

Luciana Lira, a bilingual and English-as-a-second-language teacher at Hart Magnet Elementary School in Stamford, Conn., received a phone call on April 4 from her student’s mother, who is an immigrant from Guatemala. She had just been diagnosed with COVID-19, the woman said, and she was in the hospital, about to give birth. Her husband doesn’t speak English. Could Lira come to the hospital?

Lira rushed to the hospital, her friend, Joy Colon, wrote on Facebook. Once she got there, the husband told her that he suspected that he—and his stepson, Lira’s 7-year-old student—also had COVID-19. He was terrified that the newborn baby would contract the illness as well. Could Lira take the baby home with her?

Lira agreed. And a week later, the test results came back—the father and her student tested positive for COVID-19. The baby’s pediatrician said that if the baby had gone home with them, “the outcome could surely have been tragic,” Colon wrote.

The baby, named Neysel, is healthy and has been at Lira’s house for about a month. His mother, who had been placed on a ventilator after delivery, was released from the hospital on April 26. Lira wrote on Facebook that she would keep caring for Neysel until his parents and brother all tested negative for COVID-19.

“The nurses at the hospital asked my friend if she was the mother’s sister, or perhaps, a cousin as she was listed as the primary contact,” Colon wrote. “Luciana Lira responded, ‘I’m just a teacher.’”

3. A Florida teacher paid a visit to her student who was having a bad day.

Katie Ricca, a 1st grade teacher at North Bay Haven Charter Academy in Panama City, Fla., has been reading to her students on a livestream every night. But one night, early in April, she noticed that 7-year-old Hannah was withdrawn and not her usual cheerful self.

“Our class tried talking to her but you could tell something was bothering her,” Ricca told Good Morning America. “She left the meeting early so I texted her mom to check in. My sweet student told her mom she was sad but didn’t know why.”

The next day, Ricca surprised Hannah by showing up at her house. The two sat on the driveway, six feet apart, and read books together and talked about their feelings.

“She reminded Hannah that it’s OK to get bummed out every now and then, it’s OK to chill out, and it’s even OK to cry about it if we need to,” Kelley Close, Hannah’s mom, told Good Morning America. “She reminded Hannah that even though we’re separated, we’re all going through the same thing at the same time.”

Ricca has five kids of her own, in addition to teaching and running a cake business with her husband. But when she saw Hannah was upset, she wanted to show her that she cares.

“She didn’t need more math practice; she needed me to show her I understood her feelings and that she wasn’t alone,” Ricca told Good Morning America.

Do you have a story to tell about a teacher’s life during the pandemic? Email mwill@educationweek.org, and the teacher could be featured in Education Week.

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Image via Getty

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.