During the COVID-19 pandemic, public employees across the nation have given back to their communities in extraordinary ways. From donating to food banks to helping their neighbors and protecting their communities, public employees have been on the front lines. 

Teachers are some of the most important members of our communities. They educate our children, volunteer their time and resources, and work to make a difference every day. This week, we will be honoring the hard work done by teachers across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Muskegon teachers lead K-8 bike club to promote fitness during online learning by Melissa Frick. In Muskegon, Michigan, physical education teachers and local police officers have teamed up to make sure students who are virtually learning stay active. The teachers and police officers created a K-8 bike riding club that meets Monday through Thursday at one of the district’s elementary schools. According to Frick, the program is open to all children in the district and family members are encouraged to ride along as well. Jennifer Hammond, Muskogee Public Schools Director of Curriculum, said, “Our students love to be active. We often are confined by the four walls of the gymnasium for P.E., so this is just a lifelong skill of learning to love bike riding and knowing how to do it safely.”

One teacher, four wheels, hundreds of books: A look at South LA’s bookmobile by Mariana Dale. Claudia Cataldo, a 12th-grade teacher from the Los Angeles Unified School District, is going the extra mile to make sure children are well-read, literally. With libraries and schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cataldo converted her two-door Honda Accord into a book-mobile so she could deliver books to her 12th-grade students. Dale reports that when demand increased, her idea grew into a community-wide distribution.  “It turned out they were actually getting bored on their devices and screens, which is, you know, extraordinary,” Cataldo said. “It’s the freedom to choose whatever they want to read, that then makes them want to read more. So that’s a very important thing for me to be able to give them, which is the complete choice and no pressure.”

Local teachers create fundraiser to provide free meals for ECASD families by Carly Swisher. In May, teachers from the Eau Claire Area School District volunteered at the Feed My People Food Bank to ensure local families are getting the food they need. Brian Wiltgen, a teacher at South Middle School, said, “There is a severe need for food in the Chippewa Valley for families that attend schools here.” Wiltgen and other teachers set up a fundraiser to raise money to help provide meals to families. According to Swisher, in just three days, with the help of the Eau Claire Association of Educators, they were able to raise $5,000. In total, the teachers ended up raising $12,000 which can provide more than 40,000 meals. Susie Haugley, the Feed My People Food Bank Communications Specialist, commented, “In every single bag that we have, we have enough food for about two breakfasts, two lunches and a couple snacks and it’s a good amount of food that a child can put in their backpack and we deliver 2,000 bags every single week in the Eau Claire Area School District.”

Be sure to check back next week for more stories of public employees giving back to their communities!