Teacher appreciation: Lockhart teacher spearheads adopt-a-teacher program
By Wesley Gardner
Teachers and students throughout the Lockhart school district have struggled and grown together as they adjust to the realities of distance learning, making Teacher Appreciation Week – held May 4-8 – a difficult reminder of the challenges they face.
Normally, the week is a time for parents and students to show their teachers they care and appreciate everything they put into their jobs, but restrictions implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 had seemingly slowed the effort.
Luckily, Valerie Beza, a fourth-grade teacher at Navarro Elementary School, made sure that didn’t happen.
“It’s hard for all of us teachers to be working from home,” said Beza. “We miss our kids incredibly and it’s so hard to not have that communication with our parents and with our students and giving hugs and all those things.
“Usually when you have teacher appreciation week, your kids get to bring you little notes and small gifts, and I knew we were all going to miss that.”
After seeing a Facebook page dedicated to teachers throughout San Antonio, Beza decided to create her own page specifically for teachers throughout Lockhart that allowed them to post a picture and brief bio so fellow community members could “adopt” them to show them they care.
“The very first day, in a matter of hours, there was already 500 people,” Beza said. “It just blew up.
“It wasn’t about giving money and gifts, it was just about the thought of bringing the teachers in the community together to show that appreciation.”
Now, the page is overflowing with posts showing teachers throughout the district showing off the gifts and special notes they’re received. It’s gained nearly 1,000 members in less than two weeks.
“It was a good feeling to see that all of these teachers are cared about,” said Beza, who was even adopted herself and given a gift basket containing an assortment of goodies. “People are looking for them and they want to show some kind of gratitude.
“They want to show some kind of appreciation for what they’re doing, especially right now during this distance learning. We’re struggling not seeing our babies, and we’re trying to do the best we can.”
For Bluebonnet Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Madeline Rowe, the gesture was a great way to top off a first year of teaching that was unlike she previously imagined.
“I’ve planned for this first year for a while,” said Rowe. “All four years of college I’ve thought about my first year of teaching, and I didn’t see it happening this way.
“It’s hard. I’ve missed my kids. I’ve connected with this first group a lot. It’s difficult, but you’ve got to be professional and put your feelings and emotions aside to make sure they’re still being challenged academically, and they still have someone there to talk to.”
Rowe posted an Amazon wish list along with her photo and bio and was pleased to receive a planner from her “adopted” parents – who were actually her own classroom parents – as well as blank t-shirts she used to make her class matching end-of-the-year garb.
The gifts were nice, she said, but that wasn’t why it was so special.
“Honestly, just knowing I’m appreciated,” Rowe said. “Being a student, I’d heard of Teacher Appreciation Week, but being on the teacher side of things, being appreciated is so nice.
“I didn’t realize that many people would reach out.”
Rowe also added that she had a great amount of appreciation of her own for the Lockhart school district.
“I can speak volumes about the school district and their new teacher program,” said Rowe, noting school staff members have helped her immensely throughout her first year. “The support I’ve gotten as a new teacher in the district is insane.”
Beza noted that while Teacher Appreciation Week is technically over, she’s going to keep the page run at least for a little while longer.
“Some of the teachers are still doing the amazon wish lists” said Beza. “You can create a wish list of school supplies. It’s kind of a I-gift-you, you-gift-me type of thing, like a spiral effect.”