This week, May 4-8, is Teacher Appreciation Week in North Dakota and across the United States. Now, more than ever, the public at large is cognizant of the incredibly vital work that our teachers do every day. Our outstanding teachers have always had an unyielding commitment to educate every child that walks, runs, rolls or is carried through our schoolhouse doors. In this age of Covid-19, they are equally committed to do the same for our children learning from home.

From the moment schools were closed to children, teachers, working with their administration, rose to the challenge of creating a high-quality distance learning protocol so that learning could continue. Many teachers were forced out of their comfort zones, but they did not mind because their singular focus was on doing what was right for their students. They have shown brilliantly their creativity, their compassion and their love for their students. Throughout this period, teachers have made it a point to over-communicate with their students because they know that education is predicated on relationships. This separation has been hard for students and teachers alike.

During a normal school year, this time of year is on cruise control. Teachers and students have formed a bond. They know how to joke with each other. They know how to inspire each other; they know how to encourage each other. This year, all that was ended too soon in the blink of an eye. And neither teachers nor their beloved students were ready for that.

Teachers knew that their students still needed them. They knew that their bonds were strong and that despite not being in the same physical space, they could be in the same aspirational place. That is why you see the parades through students’ neighborhoods, and teachers greeting their students through the windows, and the countless videos of teachers cheering their students on and keeping their spirits high.

In many communities, there will not be the traditional capstone event of graduation ceremonies. Nor will many of our outstanding retiring teachers receive the send-off and recognition that they so richly deserve. As frustrating as that is, however, we know that things will be better over the horizon. We know this because in every corner of our state, there are amazing teachers teaching amazing children, and the result will be a brighter future for all of us.