Parents have no doubt gained deeper gratitude for the work of teachers over the past few months as moms and dads have transformed homes into classrooms.
But while parents might have struggled to keep it all together since area schools were closed in March, teachers at St. Anthony's Elementary wanted those parents to know that their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
Thus, while pickup of report cards, homework and any final material for the season was the main purpose of Thursday afternoon's end of school year event, so to was a small token of appreciation. Apples, long recognized as gifts for teachers, were handed out by St. Anthony's teachers to parents as they exited the building.
The apples came with a small poem that read: "An apple for the teacher is really nothing new, except when we remember parents are teachers, too. Thank you for being your child’s first teacher and for your support this past quarter."
The idea to recognize parental efforts to balance home life and education was hatched by teacher Charlotte Beran. Printing the cards up and organizing materials in the lunchroom was a collaborative effort of the entire staff.
The apples were donated by Hy-Vee in Columbus.
Beran has had some indication of what it must be like, watching from afar how her daughter and son-in-law in Lincoln have done their best to set up school at home with four children.
“I just thought, ‘My gosh, all of a sudden, one day over a weekend, this was all thrown in their lap – being responsible for getting dinner, entertaining your kids, keeping them home, plus their education,'" Beran said. "We need to tell them that they are very good teachers."
St. Anthony's School isn't the largest elementary in Columbus by any stretch. But while most class sizes are right around 20 students, the teachers at St. Anthony's, and all across the city, are familiar with handling 10, 20 or 30 children every day.
For families with multiple children, that's not the case. Plus there's the challenge of maintaining focus and motivation while balancing different lesson plans. For households with just one child, that can be a challenge as well.
It likely has left many parents feeling inadequate. Beran and the staff at the school have had conversations of that nature several times since mid-March.
But St. Anthony's teachers wanted to ensure the parents that they were likely harder on themselves than they needed to be.
“I’m sure the parents felt there were things they should know. They were often confused about things they didn’t learn the same way," Beran said. “I think parents were afraid they were going to teach it the wrong way."
Beran was in contact with at least one parent each day to answer questions and give advice. Fellow teacher Roger Krienke set up Zoom calls and lessons and utilized Google Classroom, giving students or teachers the chance to leave comments and questions.
The situation wasn't ideal, and much learning was done along the way by both teachers and parents. But after a few weeks, Krienke could sense more confidence in his students and their parents.
"I really felt like we tried to make it work for each student, make it individual and help kids out the best we could in a not so great situation," Krienke said. "But I felt like things really started rolling at the end. The kids did a good job getting their stuff in."
Whether or not school returns to normal in three months remains a question. Whichever way that question is ultimately answered, St. Anthony's Principal Amy Sokol said everyone will be better for the trying times in the long run.
"The teachers and the parents worked really well together to get through the ups and downs," she said. "There was a lot of great communication, and I feel we're all better people because of this experience; good is going to come out of it. I take my hat off to our parents who didn't give up, our teachers who didn't give up and now it's time to enjoy summer."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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