End of 2020-21 School Year

Teacher Appreciation Week Prompts Reflections
Posted on 05/18/2021
This is the image for the news article titled Teacher Appreciation Week Prompts ReflectionsTeacher Appreciation Week 2021 took on new meaning as administrators, colleagues, students, students’ families, businesses, and organizations sought ways to express gratitude for a year like no other.

When schools closed March 17 and did not reopen until August 17, fears were expressed regarding the unknowns prompted from the COVID-19 pandemic like safety and possible learning loss. While individuals, classes and sometimes teams were quarantined, at no time did a school face total closure during the academic year. And though results from the state testing will not be known until late summer, preliminary screenings suggest pockets of growth have occurred.

“Part of the stress of the year was dealing with the unknown,” noted Weakley County Schools Director Randy Frazier. “We devised a handbook of protocols based on CDC guidelines that we hoped would be effective. But we didn’t know. We prepared our teachers to go online with their teaching and ordered the necessary equipment. But we couldn’t make those computers come in any faster or guarantee we would have reliable internet for those who needed it.

“Given these factors, we began the year with understandable pressures – which makes the fact that our teachers, EAs, nurses, administrators, bus drivers, and, of course, students endured and excelled a fact worth celebrating,” he concluded.

Those celebrations began when May brought Teacher Appreciation to the forefront as part of a nationwide emphasis. With everything from shaved ices to cupcakes, catered lunches to gift bags of goodies, educators across Weakley County were acknowledged and honored.

To add to the showers of recognition and gratitude, district Math Coach Megan Moore was tapped to organize a countywide appreciation activity. She garnered contributions from businesses in every town to be used as prizes in random drawings. To participate in the drawing, teachers had to write a response to a daily question.

The questions were simple: What has been your proudest moment? What have you learned from this year? If you could use one word to describe the educators you work with, what would it be? What motivates you in your role?

Overcoming COVID-related issues prompted many proud moments across the county, according to the collection of responses. Nicki Moore at Martin Primary answered “navigating a challenging situation with acceptance, joy and integrity.” Several spoke of pride at the students’ lack of complaints about wearing masks and social distancing and watching them adapt to the “new normal.” Michelle Williams at Dresden Elementary expressed gratitude for “those in charge that see the need for in-person education,” a value many shared. Charleigh Stephens at Martin Elementary wrote her proudest moment came when she received her second dose of the vaccine. “Knowing that I have done everything I can to protect my students and my family fills me with joy,” she added. And April Fishel at MES said one of her fourth graders wrote in their teacher appreciation card to her, “It’s like COVID isn’t a thing. This year has been great.”

Pride also came as students showed growth academically, behaviorally and socially. Examples are many: from Allie Crews’ MES fourth graders typing and publishing their first essays, to Becky Anderson’s Dresden third graders growing confidence in their reading, Shannon McMillin’s MES students making a sick classmate still feel a part of the group, Dresden Middle’s Mindy Thomas’ realization that when students nicknamed her “Mama T,” school had become a safe place for many, and Kandace Jackson’s Greenfield business communications seniors receiving praise for their mock online interviews.

“My proudest moment this year has been watching my students gain respect for one another and treating each other fairly,” wrote Lisa Kerney at Martin Middle. “The students in my class will voluntarily help each other on different tasks. Being caring and respectful will go a long way with them in life.”

Some pride was also expressed at additions made during the year. Jan Mitchell in Greenfield received a grant for a set of iPads. Honey Teague was smiling at the $20,000 grant Dresden Elementary received for iPads. Tina Brown at MES is pleased she now has laptops for all her students. Judy Martin, Greenfield’s librarian, spoke of her excitement when students used new iPads in the library for the first time. Jennifer Wenz is celebrating the confirmation of adding a digital design class to offerings at Westview next year. And many teachers noted the strides students had made in mastering computer skills.

“My proudest moment was when every single child reached his or her AR (Accelerated Reading) goal and I looked out across the class and the following things were going on: reading, suggesting good books to one another and stockpiling the next book they wanted to read,” wrote Sherry Hatchel who teaches 2nd grade at Dresden.

Answering tricky math concepts, excitement at chicks hatching, hosting and putting on a collaborative FCCLA Mini-Leadership Meeting, learning Google Classroom, reaching hard-to-reach students, completing a first-ever MES Beta Day, former students returning to give back to the school or to say thanks, students placing at state FBLA contests—are specific moments that provided a sense of accomplishment among the teachers that responded to the mini survey.

One response easily captured the transformative power of an educator.

Teresa Brawner, a special education teacher at Dresden High, wrote that her best moment happened recently when a parent told her that her special needs daughter, a freshman, had changed her life plan to become a teacher so she could help others like herself. The parent said this was an amazing switch and was due to “all the goodness and knowledge that you have poured into her.” Upon hearing the impact, Brawner says her heart soared and her tears flowed, and that it made “all of my 12 years of teaching worthwhile.”

In response to what has been learned this year, teachers mentioned specifics like number sense routines and strides in reading and writing but they also overwhelmingly pointed to learning that students are “resilient and can adapt.” Some even adding, “better than adults.”

Learning the value of school taking place in person was frequently mentioned. Dresden Elementary’s Lisa Whitworth put it this way, “Kids and adults need to be with and around each other. Isolation isn’t good for the soul or the brain.”
Samantha Vaughn at Martin Middle underscored that “social-emotional health is and should always be the focus of our schools” as her takeaway for the year.

Among the things learned were several self-realizations. The ability to be flexible and to adapt were the most frequent responses. Giving grace to one’s self and others was a close second. Adding new technologies proved to be a valued asset as well.

“This year I learned that teaching during a pandemic, a school is not just for learning it is for loving and motivating your students when times are unexpected,” wrote Michaela Frederick who teaches pre-K at Sharon School.

Of course, a frank but true observation was also made. “I’ve learned that I don’t like wearing masks,” may have been written by one teacher but was perhaps felt by many.

When asked to describe their colleagues in a word, the clear frontrunner is “dedicated” with almost 20% of the respondents confirming this trait. “Resilient” was noted by another 10%. “Amazing,” “family,” “awesome,” and “fluid/flexible” were also top vote getters.

Several answers to the final question on what motivates those employed at Weakley County Schools in their roles indicated many teachers turn to their colleagues. Calling was another motivating force. But the majority of the responses said the students and especially those “light bulb moments” when the material clicks or connects to their life.

As Alyse Darby who teaches third grade at Greenfield put it, “My students are what motivates me to do what I do. They make each day so fun and watching them learn and grow during the year is the best part about my job.”

As representatives of the district visited each school to collect responses and draw for winners, the appreciation clearly went both ways. Teachers were grateful for the gifts and the community support they represented.

Teacher Appreciation prize donors include:
Dresden: Wilson Farm Soaps, The Court Square Deli, Urban Designs, Shear Nutrition, Southern Grace Boutique & Gifts
Gleason: Dragonfly Nutrition, Simply Southern
Greenfield: Four Corners Frame Shoppe, Wimpy’s Corner, Greenfield Nutrition
Martin: Buff City Soap, Sweet Tooth-Jessica Glasgow, MDK Design Glitter and Timber ZYIA Active with Elizabeth Pritchett, Skyhawk Nutrition, The Shoe Shack, Lala’s Boutique, Higher Ground Coffee Co., The Blue Swing, Candy Ogg Designs, Monograms & More, Sugar & Spice, Styles on Broadway, Charity’s Chocolates, Fresh Start

Megan Moore and Latessia Shane
Megan Moore organized the countywide drawings for prizes contributed by area businesses. The District Math Coach is seen here with Latessia Shane.

surprised teacher
Jessica Glasgow was one of several from the Weakley County Schools’ staff who made their way across the county on Friday of Teacher Appreciation Week to distribute prizes to teachers. She surprised Rebecca Covington during a Gleason School field day event after the special education teacher’s name was drawn.

word art
“Dedicated” got to the heart of the teachers’ one-word descriptions for their colleagues as evidenced by this Word cloud generated from the responses.
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