I woke up happy today. Happy that its spring, happy to be fully vaccinated and happy to be going back to school.

This past year we’ve all been thrown out of our comfort zones. Art in a pandemic stricken world is almost impossible. My job at the art center ceased to be and I spent a year gathering funding, planning and designing programming for a future filled with hope. A year ago, I barely knew about Zoom. Last March I was given a crash course on how to use Google Classroom because, despite the global pandemic, there were kids in school who needed art. 

Online art is hard. First you figure out that not all kids have art supplies at home – in some cases not even paper. So, you plan and spend hours gathering supplies to send home. You gear your efforts towards doing projects with common household items and then you find out that for some reason or other they didn’t pick up the supplies. So now half the kids are ready, and half are not and now you’ve got to change plans. Add in the kids with no cameras, no mics or both and the bad Wi-Fi. This was just the first week. And repeat over and over for the rest of the year. 

I am not a full-time teacher. I only teach art for six hours a week. I struggled every time I flipped open that laptop and entered the Land of Zoom and Gloom. I learned and hopefully some of the kids did too.

My experience has humbled me because even though I believe that art is extremely important for a well-rounded student, it is the rest of the teaching community that deserves our cheers. As someone from the outside, I watched our school transform into a triage unit for kids in our community. From day one it was about keeping the kids and community safe. They fed them, provided them with laptops, learning materials and support during one of the scariest times in their lives. Teachers, office staff janitors, cafeteria staff all pitched in. Without hesitation our local school went on educating, even though in many cases their hands were tied behind their backs. 

I can’t imagine the stress of our school’s administration having to navigate the state COVID guidelines and CDC rules. Imagine trying to teach kids math while also teaching them to wear a mask and wash their hands. Just try to keep first graders six feet apart. It sounds impossible, but they are doing it. They are teaching science to kids in face shields and in safe rooms with dividers. They are teaching students to read aloud online without seeing their faces because the laptop they have doesn’t have a camera. 

Teachers are teaching kids in school and kids at home at the same time. Cafeteria workers are making meals for kids while bus drivers are delivering school assignments and supplies. Every single school employee has gone above and beyond and as far as I can see they are handling it with grace. 

As a kid I viewed school as a place I had to be. This morning when I woke up, I was excited to go to a place I wanted to be. I am extremely proud to call myself a Patagonia Lobo. 

Much love and admiration to all those educators out there who have really had the hardest job this year. I appreciate you.