By Rich Askey
A global pandemic has closed schools across Pennsylvania and the nation, creating unprecedented challenges for public education. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that educators, support staff, and parents are rising to meet this challenge and make sure students continue to learn and have their needs met, even when they can’t go to school.
The one sentiment I hear again and again from so many educators during this crisis is: “We miss our kids.” That’s why teachers and support staff in many communities have organized “watch and wave” parades, where they drive slowly through local neighborhoods to greet students at safe distances and remind them just how much they care.
From the start of this crisis, these caring professionals never stopped putting their students first.
You see that in all the news stories about cafeteria workers who report to school, day after day, to prepare grab-and-go meals so that students don’t go hungry. Some teachers and support staff, such as those in the Selinsgrove Area School District in central Pennsylvania, have even collected food to give out to people in their community who are struggling.
To keep kids’ learning on track, educators across the state have adapted lesson plans and materials to meet students and families where they are — in many cases, through online instruction and enrichment. Teachers are reading to students on YouTube and helping them work through math and science lessons in online chat sessions.
And for those students who do not have internet access or the technology to log in to a virtual classroom, educators have delivered printed assignments to their homes or at grab-and-go meal sites. Some school districts are even partnering with public television to provide educational programming to their students.
Educators are also encouraging kids to get out of the house and go for a walk in their neighborhoods, if they can. Exercise is incredibly important for students of all ages, and it’s something that they get at school and might be missing right now.
The bottom line is that Pennsylvania’s educators and support professionals have continued to be a part of their students’ lives.
I’m so impressed and proud of the way that everyone has stepped up in this crisis. We have marshaled every resource available to bring education into the homes of the 1.7 million students who are depending on us to keep learning.
And I’m grateful to the parents, guardians, and other family members who have shown a tremendous amount of patience and understanding as we work through the challenges of remote instruction. Many of you are working from home and balancing the many responsibilities you have. Let me tell you, you’re doing a great job. We could not do any of this without you. Thank you.
At the end of the day, we share a common goal. We want to educate and serve the students of Pennsylvania, while keeping everyone safe and healthy.
The educators and support professionals I represent as the president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) are committed to this goal in school or at home. Wherever PSEA members are, we are there for our students. And we’re going to get through this together.
Rich Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.