National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2-8, including National Teacher Appreciation Day on May 4, occurs this year during the triple threat of an economic crisis, racial and social inequities, and a global pandemic, and provides a timely opportunity to illustrate the power and value of teachers and parents collaborating creatively for student success. During this week, the National Education Association will bring to life the exceptional stories of educators who have gone beyond the call of duty to ensure students have the tools and resources to learn, thrive and succeed. NEA also calls on the nation to join the growing chorus that thanks educators—not only during National Teacher Appreciation Week, but every day.

“We are used to the challenges of a typical school year, but this year faced with unprecedented challenges that were far from typical, everyone leaned in, stood in the gap and found creative ways to adapt, innovate and persevere to keep students learning and smiling,” said middle school science teacher and NEA President Becky Pringle in a recorded message to the nation’s educators. “That’s why, during this Teacher Appreciation Week, communities across the country will come together to appreciate educators and the lengths they go to ensure every student, no matter who they are or where they live, has the tools to learn, grow, and thrive.”

Public schools—and by extension educators—keep communities connected, serving as sites to offer nutritious meals to students, distribute supplies, help students secure Wi-Fi hotspots to stay connected, and keep families informed. Educators time and again have demonstrated their unparalleled commitment and creativity in providing students with continued learning opportunities, both in person and virtually, during these trying times. Even as educators are stretched thin, balancing responsibilities that include caring for their own young children or elderly relatives, while learning new teaching platforms and supporting students, many still found the time and a multitude of ways to give back. Here are several of them:

The self-proclaimed vaccine hunters, a group of Maryland teachers, used their spare minutes between classes to find COVID-19 vaccines for strangers. Meanwhile, an elementary school librarian from Nebraska created daily videos—wearing a full T-Rex costume and tossing flour during a cooking session—so she could connect with her students. In North Carolina, an educator sought and secured Wi-Fi hotspots in rural churches for students. An education support professional from New Jersey who donated her kidney to her ailing husband still found time to turn school buildings into sites that offered nutritious meals to students. And, when local grocery stores were shut down, Minneapolis parents and educators organized a community drive to collect and donate food to families.

“Behind every student were resourceful and creative parents, caretakers, and dedicated educators – food service workers, bus drivers, clerical workers and others – who reached out with open arms of support, showing their students that, no matter who they are or where they live, we have a brighter path ahead,” said Pringle. “Even as we celebrate our unsung heroes, we remain committed to showing you all our appreciation in the days ahead. We will keep working to ensure every educator can return safely to in-person learning, using our collective voice to make sure your voice is heard and pushing for the training and tools needed to continue to support your students.”

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