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When I told family and friends that I was going into Elementary Education, most of them either scoffed and told me how little I was going to get paid or told me “that makes sense for you.” When I shared this anecdote with peers also in Elementary Education, they said they received similar reactions. Now, we all agree that teachers have been the unsung heroes of Covid-19 - forced to re-enter the classroom, putting their health at risk for their students' learning and not getting paid anywhere near what they deserve. I am proud to live with an essential teacher - my mom, Dana. The stories she has shared with me, both of hardship and success, have touched my soul. 

Going into this school year, no one in my hometown of Rockville Centre knew what to expect. A number of teachers decided to retire early, some had to work from home due to preexisting conditions and the teachers that remained were taking bets as to when we’d go from a hybrid schedule to fully remote. Middle school principal Shelagh McGinn was resilient through it all, providing cautious optimism to teachers scared to go back. When faculty and staff were reunited in August for training, Principal McGinn not only implemented safety and social distancing protocols, but she was honest. She expressed that this year is like no other and that, with patience and kindness, they would get through it together.

This school year started off filled with anxiety and uncertainty. No teacher knew how long the hybrid schedule would last, how prepared they needed to be to move virtually and if students' actions outside of school would cause the school to close.  Every time a new case would trickle in, teachers would be in fear for their health. If they were in direct contact with the student, they had to quarantine. But who supervises the students while the teacher is teaching virtually in quarantine? Well, this is where wonderful co-teachers like my mom come in. As the virtual teacher teaches the students who are at home and in the classroom, permanent subs are placed in the classroom to assist the in-class students and ensure that the virtual elements are set up. During this school year, my mom has been a co-teacher for 8th grade Earth Science, 7th grade science and French and 6th grade math classes. Sometimes, she’s covering for multiple teachers in a day.

More often than not, my mom comes home exhausted after a long day of co-teaching. Rather than lounging on the couch or taking a nap like others may do, she jumps right into her job as a mother. As she skillfully maneuvers cooking dinner, helping my sisters with homework and fielding random questions, she tells me about her day. In the beginning, it was mostly sob stories - teachers whose spouses passed away or whose family members became ill due to Covid-19 or those who would come out of class crying with frustration from not having all their students together in one room. But as time went on, happy stories would trickle in - those who had success with their students, technology working properly or students having that “I got it” moment.

I have to give my hats off to these teachers: the ones who are working day in and day out and sacrificing so much, including their safety, for their kids. To all those teachers, thank you. It does not go unnoticed, and I’m so proud to be joining you.

Colette Brancaccio is a current senior at the University of Delaware. She is studying Elementary Education with a Concentration in Special Education. She enjoys reading, going for runs, & random dance parties. She is also the Founder and Owner of BHive Designs, a growing business that provides inventive & affordable gifts for any occasion while promoting service to the community.
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