GUEST COLUMN: Teachers, school staff deserve respect
Teachers and staff,
As the 2019-2020 School Year comes to a close, I cannot help but reflect on the events that transpired after March 13th. You left for Spring Break with excitement in your hearts at the prospect of a break. But, your break turned into an uncertain two-week time period, and before we knew it, schools were closed for the remainder of the year. Throughout it all, you operated with compassion and grace as you learned new formats for teaching, new roles as paraprofessionals, new routes for dropping food, new routines for all. Although the fourth quarter has not been what we imagined because of COVID-19 and school closures, we learned so much more about who we are in the daily lives of Okaloosa’s families. Each of you are so much more than just Okaloosa County School District employees. You are the normalcy and safety that so many of our students need to thrive. You are the calming reassurance that allows parents to breathe. You are the professional educators that contribute to keeping the economy in Okaloosa strong. And, you are a major reason why so many want to move to our beautiful area. I am so very thankful for the hard work and dedication that each of you put in to complete this school year and I am humbled by your resiliency and “can do” mindset.
Each of you, as this pandemic became a reality, understood immediately that not only did you need to care for your own family, but you also understood your role as an educator. The role of educators is to take care of the students we serve and each of you have been amazing, whether on the front lines or in the background. Oftentimes, we talk about being a part of the OCSD Family where Everyone is Important or No One is Important. Never has this been truer than now. I have seen teachers show up to a student’s house and remain 10 feet apart just to say hi and place a smile on the face of a student who was struggling. I have seen bus drivers deliver food into the communities of students and leave little treats for their students in the process. I have seen food service workers deliver meals to students and families out in the hot sun or pouring rain and not complain a bit. I have seen administrators drive across this county, and even into other counties, in order to place a sign of appreciation in the yards of their teachers and staff. I have seen district staff drive to house of a student to not only ensure the internet was working, but also to deliver a McDonald’s meal. I have seen secretaries stay on the phone for over an hour just to reassure a parent letting them know that they could do this. You are among the heroes who emerged during this pandemic and because of you; we are a better school district than we were nine weeks ago.
While we do not know what next year will look like at this time, I remain confident because I know that whatever comes our way, I am blessed with the best teachers, staff, and administrators a school district could ask for. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for all of your hard work, diligent efforts, and unconditional love that you have shown during this pandemic. You have proven that when tough circumstances arise or when the unfathomable occurs, the Okaloosa County School District employees will be ready.
Marcus Chambers, Okaloosa County superintendent of schools