A little over a year ago, COVID-19 upended our lives. Health care workers were put on the frontline, small businesses were forced to close, and students were sent home from school, with no idea when they would return.

At the time, no one knew how long the pandemic would stretch on or just how devastating it would be for our community.

In the midst of that widespread fear and uncertainty, teaching had to go on. On little notice, the educators of our community were forced to adapt their profession to a new medium and new world.

Not only would teachers have to rapidly figure out how to teach over Zoom, they would now face classes of students newly anxious and traumatized, many of whom whose lives were forever changed by the loss of a family member.

Faced with this profound challenge and tiny runway, the educators of Montgomery County stepped up. They deserve our deepest thanks — in words and in action.

All across the county, educators made the best of remote learning, going above and beyond to support their kids.

Teachers took on the responsibility of checking in with students over emails, texts, and phone calls. Principals taught incoming middle-schoolers how to open lockers and navigate hallways over virtual orientations.

Teachers of young children just beginning to learn English stayed late on the phone with their students, walking them through new, unfamiliar online platforms.

When a P.E. teacher at Springbrook High School got a Friday-night text from a student struggling to submit an application to Montgomery College without a computer, the teacher printed out the application herself, taught the student how to address it over the phone, and mailed it to the student with an extra envelope.

As many students have told their teachers in coordinated Zoom thank yous, young people could not have gotten through virtual learning without the compassion and commitment of their teachers.

Now, as the school system eases back into in-person learning, teachers, administrators, counselors, and all school staff members are helping students transition into a world almost-returned-to-normal.

Students arrived at school this March to balloons, banners, and choruses of school employees welcoming their return. Walking into school for the first time since March, elementary schoolers remarked how excited they were to hear their new teachers read books to them in person.

Even with wonky socially distanced classroom layouts, teachers across the county are finding ways to engage students — from making music videos to taking yoga wellness breaks.

And to make it all happen, thousands of employees across the system spent the past several months diligently setting up new sanitizing stations, upgraded ventilation systems, and socially distanced hallway walking patterns. In-person learning is only possible because of their work.

Through it all, Montgomery County’s educators have played an active role outside the virtual classroom and in our community.

Food service workers handed out millions of free meals to students. Bus drivers distributed Chromebooks and other school supplies to students who needed them. A group of teachers banded together to help seniors and non-English speakers navigate the complicated vaccine sign-up process, almost certainly saving lives as a result.

Let us all come together and thank the educators of our community — not just in rhetoric, but in proportional policy, support, and respect.

When it comes time for the school system to negotiate salaries, or the County Council to decide the funding of our schools, or the school board to weigh the policy requests of teachers, we must remember the profound contributions and sacrifices of Montgomery County’s educators through the pandemic.

We must show up for them like they have shown up for our county’s young people.

After all they have done for the future of our community, we owe Montgomery County’s teachers, administrators, and staff members nothing short of our deepest gratitude and our solidarity.

Rising Voices is an occasional column by Nate Tinbite, a John F. Kennedy High School graduate; Ananya Tadikonda, a Richard Montgomery High School graduate; and Matt Post, a Sherwood High School graduate. All three are recent student members of the Montgomery County Board of Education.


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