Our children spend approximately 180 days a year under the stewardship of their teachers. In California, students spend an average of 5-7 hours every weekday in school. During this time, we entrust teachers to nurture our children, challenge them, encourage them, and help them develop and grow into independent, critical thinkers with a thirst for learning and a desire to make an indelible impact on this ever-changing world. That’s quite a tall order, but our teachers rise to the challenge every day and do what they can to teach with passion and purpose.  

With schools abruptly closed due to the covid-19 crisis, teachers have had to pivot on a dime from teaching their students in person in physical classrooms to connecting with them online with the lofty, almost fantastical goal of keeping students engaged and learning remotely while at the same time not overwhelming students or parents with the online learning experience. And all of this with no lead time to prepare for this massive shift in teaching, and with little (if any) consideration given to whether teachers have their own families to attend to and responsibilities with which to cope during this time.  

Now that parents have been thrusted into the role of “homeschooling” their children during this time, we can appreciate the patience, dedication, and efforts of our teachers more than ever.  

It warms my heart to see teachers and staff in the Tustin Unified School District, Irvine Unified School District, and schools across the country find creative ways to maintain connectedness with their students during this time.  

There have been carefully coordinated surprise car parades for the students, in which teachers and staff line up along the street and cheer their students on with balloons, heartfelt signs, and words of encouragement (some while wiping away tears in between).

There have been personal letters handwritten by teachers to each of their students to let their scholars know that they are thinking of them during this time.

There have been countless hours of behind-the-scenes planning and adapting to new curricula while schools are closed and on-the-job learning for effectively using Google Classroom, Zoom, Google Meet, Flipgrid, and other technology as the new interface for teaching dozens of students at once for the rest of the school year.  

Teachers have had to remain strong and steadfast in providing continued support and guidance to students, and yet also be incredibly adaptable as school districts toggle with whether grades should be given during this time, whether all students have access to the necessary devices and WiFi needed to participate in online learning, and so much more.

When teachers are spending their time and energy to go above and beyond in their classrooms and schools, we should find a way to celebrate and encourage that.  Because that energy lifts the next generation up.  

I am grateful that the Tustin Public Schools Foundation has made such a concerted effort to encourage and support teachers’ efforts to enrich their students in a more impactful way through innovative grants. Every year, dozens and dozens of teachers take the time to apply for a chance at funding, sharing their vision for how they could elevate their students’ learning experience with a game plan and a wish list to make this a reality.  

My Private Professor has been thrilled to help support TPSF’s innovative grants program over the past three years.  Although these grants are reviewed blind (without knowing which schools or teachers are applying), what can be clearly seen is the amount of heart and passion that is put into every request.  Each of them is worthy of being funded, and we are happy to have played a role in helping TPSF award a record number of innovative grants over the last few years.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing teachers’ reactions when they learn they were awarded an innovative grant for their classroom or grade – there are many impromptu screams of delight that are heard, tears of joy that are shed, high fives that are made, and hugs all around. Judging by their reactions, you would think they had won the lottery. But not a penny went to them. They received funding for a project that would solely benefit their students and their school, intended exclusively to further enrich the learning experience for their young scholars.

A few of the amazing teachers who have earned TPSF Innovative Grants. Photo credit: John Garrett

This is true passion personified. This is a testament to how devoted our teachers are to our students and stewards to our students’ academic success.  

As Teacher Appreciation week approaches, let’s take a moment to express our gratitude for everything that our teachers do to foster a love of learning in our children, especially during this difficult time. Although schools have closed, teachers’ dedication and determination to nurture our students has not wavered. Let’s show some extra appreciation to them and celebrate everything they do to help our children grow. Thank you, teachers. We appreciate you.

With Love,

Sona 🧡