Teachers and other school staff members are being officially honored this week in observance of Teacher Appreciation Week.
This week, schools across Grand Island have been celebrating their educators, although Northwest Public Schools celebrated earlier this school year.
“Teacher appreciation week is just a microcosm of the great appreciation we have for the teachers at Central Catholic,” said Jordan Engle, Grand Island Central Catholic School principal.
Engle said teachers were treated to a special lunch Monday and receive “continuous shout-outs throughout the week.”
The timing of Teacher Appreciation Week is fitting, he said.
“It … usually happens to line up with graduation, so our seniors are especially thankful for all their teachers have done for them during their academic years,” Engle said.
School year 2020-21 has been a collective exhale for many schools, as the pandemic’s impact lessens, and schools have returned to in-person learning. Mohamed Salad, a fourth-grader at Starr Elementary School, said his teachers’ efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“They do everything for us; they went through some hard stuff from COVID-19,” Mohamed said.
Grand Island Senior High’s Teacher Appreciation Week theme is a nod to taking off from the pandemic and heading toward the end of another school year, said GISH Assistant Principal Calvin Hubbard. “As a building we went with a theme of ‘propel’ — we’re propelling to the finish line.”
Teachers received propeller-themed trinkets with notes of thanks attached.
Jen Kramer, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Walnut Middle School, said there have been tokens of thanks at Walnut, too.
“The students have brought me notes and told me thank you. I did have a student bring me some goodies,” Kramer said. “We’ve felt appreciated by the kids — and overall staff.”
When it comes to those expressing their appreciation, one group ranks above the rest.
“I like it when it comes from the students better,” she said.
Students such as Lauren Smith, a fifth grader at Trinity Lutheran Elementary School, have been vocal about their teachers.
“I love all the teachers here at Trinity,” Lauren said. “The teachers are all so kind in their own way.”
At parochial schools like Trinity, teachers also often provide spiritual guidance.
“I’m glad that the teachers here can teach me about Jesus. They help me grow in faith,” Lauren said.
Judy Bartels, Trinity Lutheran School’s interim principal, said that is a facet of educating key to parochial schools.
“Teachers at Trinity are teaching because they care about kids and want them to know and love the Lord as well as strive to teach them knowledge and understanding in many other areas,” Bartels said.
It could be said that teachers in most schools take a personal approach to their teaching — especially in the waning pandemic.
“Having them face-to-face has been so good,” Kramer said.
Hubbard said every day is different, but the goal remains the same.
“Teachers really don’t know what they’re getting into on a daily basis when they come into the building. They expect the best and they’re prepared to take care of every student that walks into their classroom,” he said.
Bartels indicated that in the relatively short time she has been at Trinity, she has observed similar situations.
“I have observed some fantastic teaching, respectful students, and cooperative learning and teaching,” she said. “Not only do the teachers work hard for the good of the kids, the kids pick up on this and show respect for each other and for the work that is expected of them.”
Teacher Appreciation Week helps remind those affected by educators of the role their teachers play in their lives, Hubbard said.
“It’s a time so we can celebrate all the work that our staff put in to support our students and make sure they have what they need,” he said.
Kramer said she has noticed that sentiment.
“They realize how much we do every day,” she said. “Throughout this whole year teachers have proven how resilient we are.”
It shows through their students.
“They take time to help you with your work and help you get smarter,” Lauren Smith said. “I’m glad it’s teacher appreciation week.”
Quinston Larsen, a senior at Heartland Lutheran, said, “They really strive to go one-on-one with you.”
Lexi Ross, a fifth grader at Starr Elementary School, said that kind of attention helps her and her classmates learn.
“If you need help with work they help you,” Lexi said. “They don’t just make you figure it out on your own.”
For many teachers, it’s a way of life, Bartels said.
“Do I appreciate the teachers here? That would be a great big affirmative,” she said. “Teaching is part of them, not just a job.”
Jessica Votipka is the education reporter at the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420.