Championing Frontline Heroes who Focus on Opportunities

Guest Correspondence

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

With the start of the new school year just three days away, most of us find ourselves in a place we neither expected nor wanted to be. We are a full year after the daunting beginning of last school year when the COVID-19 pandemic was mere months old but already had altered our lives in ways we couldn’t have foreseen.

Schools, teachers, students and families have been and continue to be fundamentally impacted.  Our resilience has been tested. But our perseverance remains unshakable.

As a community and as individuals, it is likely we will face many challenging obstacles in the days ahead--obstacles that may not have easy solutions but that can more readily be tackled with confidence, calm and a dose of optimism. It will allow us to think more clearly and seize opportunities to learn new life lessons, find new and better ways of doing things, and discover new strengths within ourselves.

I’m reminded that we already have role models who demonstrate these traits on a daily basis. They are the professionals on the pandemic battlefield frontlines, taking care of the most vulnerable among us.

When we think of those serving on the frontlines, we naturally think about doctors, nurses, EMTs, home healthcare workers and police officers. We laud their skills, professionalism and selflessness. They deserve our respect, gratitude and support.

So do educators, for they serve on the frontlines too, caring for our future—our students. They are the teachers, principals, custodians, food service workers, coaches, bus drivers, school crossing guards and school resource officers, just to name a few. Last school year, they rose to the unprecedented challenges and improvised, learned new techniques and endeavored to meet every student where that individual student was academically, physically and emotionally.

Even while many of them had their own family struggles caused by covid, they showed their calmest and most caring faces to their students. Some made heroic efforts to keep some consistency and continuity for students whose home lives and social relationships suddenly had been upended.

Faced with challenges they never imagined, educators responded by asking, “How else can we get this done? If we can’t do that, then how can we do this?”

It wasn’t perfect, but it was heroic.

Now, here we are a year later. The amazing teachers and staff who work in our district are well aware that they have their work cut out for them this year. They know that the pandemic has impacted the overall academic progress of many students, and their commitment to stay the course has not wavered.

There’s much more to do and educators can’t do it alone. It is time for us, as parents and as members of our community, to demonstrate confidence in our educators, to remain calm as we overcome obstacles and to project optimism in the face of adversity.

Please join me. Let’s unite in solidarity for educators and all who commit to supporting our students as we kick off another school year. Through our collective energy, we can emerge on the other side of this challenge as a stronger, more cohesive and robust community. And isn’t that the role model we want our students to emulate?

Jennifer Vigne is President and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

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