First-graders work in Courtney Meyer’s classroom at Alta Vista Elementary School in Redondo Beach. Blue tape helps keep students’ desk separated. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Geffen Academy at UCLA

Opinion: The importance of appreciating educators as we move on from COVID-19

Going into 2020, we all had our own ambitions and resolutions on how to make the most out of this upcoming year. At this point, as a freshman in high school, my intention was to finish this academic year off strong and strengthen the relationships around me.

Early February came, and we heard reports of an unidentified virus originating from the streets of Wuhan, but we gave this no mind and continued with our lives. This month finally came to an end, only to be preceded by one that contained even more worry. Cases spread throughout the world, and countries began to shut down by the day.

Here we are in 2021, over one year later, with the renowned COVID-19 ravaging our communities, leaving us wondering how this past year came to be. With a variety of vaccines being distributed across our nation, we clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it would be a shame to dismiss all that we have learned throughout this pandemic before moving on to the next phase of our lives.

As a student who has always greatly appreciated the support provided by a variety of educators, it came as no surprise that 2020 would be a challenging year. Having to completely transition from the classroom to a virtual setting is no easy feat, and considering that our teachers were able to do this within a matter of weeks not only displays flexibility but also their passion for seeing those around them prosper, even if it is through a computer screen.

It is clear that those immersed in the world of education are severely underappreciated due to their contributions as the backbone of our society, yet their salaries do not justify this. Parents who have had to experience their children undergoing online learning have just now realized this, and in many ways, it is a shame that it took this long for our society to begin commending educators for their work.

Between 2008-2012, during the years of the Great Recession, our country had lost over 120,000 teaching positions. The pandemic forced employment to fall by 8% in K-12 and 11% in public education, whilst a noticeable amount of educators have even considered quitting them due to their lack of pay.

My point isn’t that teachers across the country should be granted better working conditions or salaries, but rather that they play a quintessential role in educating millions of students across the United States, and that they should be recognized for this, especially in these unprecedented times.

As Los Angeles has transitioned to the Yellow Zone, a variety of our communities have resumed the limited in-person learning experience. Considering all that our teachers have gone through, they may feel relieved to return to their typical teaching ways.

With that being said, given that we students will have the opportunity to potentially see our instructors face to face, it is quintessential that we express gratitude to these characters because of their versatility over this past year. It is undeniable to claim that our life is beginning to resume to what it used to be, and reaching out to those with whom you typically would not create bonds is very significant, and would help make the schooling experience much more enjoyable for all parties involved. 

As a student who had struggled with mental fatigue throughout the initial months of this pandemic, I have learned to not only adapt to our current situation but also appreciate those around me.

To be frank, this past year has been extremely challenging for our youth, knowing all that we have missed due to COVID-19. Rather than dwell on the past, it is crucial to recognize that everybody is going through a similar phase, even if they do not express it publicly.

My point is that rather than holding ourselves to an unrealistic standard on how to live our lives during these times, we should go to those around us and seek sanction knowing that this era will eventually end and the opportunity to move on will arise.

If we have learned anything throughout this past year, it is that our sense of community is invaluable and that it is quintessential to reach out to those around you, because more likely than not, they are experiencing similar situations to that of yourself.

This is why it is of the utmost importance to recognize the work of those around us throughout these unprecedented times and understand that more likely than not, these figures serve as a liable resource to utilize.

In retrospect, nobody would have predicted this past year, so utilizing your resources by reaching out to others will not only help your mental health in the long run but also help create bonds that will last a lifetime.