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. 

Teachers cover bus routes at Haviland by Hannah Brown. At Haviland Grade School in Topeka, Kansas, teachers stepped up to drive children to school when several staff members and bus drivers contracted COVID-19. Brown reports that, although the school had enough substitute teachers to cover classes while teachers helped out, superintendent and principal Mark Clodfelter was grateful for the school’s teachers. Clodfelter said, “We are blessed to have a staff that is willing to jump in where we need some short-term help. For instance, we were down a bus driver so two teachers split the route and covered with suburbans. If a teacher needs to be gone for a short time and another teacher has a planning time during that hour, they will volunteer to cover.”

Minnesota teacher donates kidney to her school’s custodian by Jackie Salo. When Kimball Elementary School custodian Patrick Mertens required a kidney donation to survive, he needed to look no further than his school in Minnesota. Salo reports that, after hearing about Mertens’ dire situation, co-worker and teacher Erin Durga got tested to find out if she was a donor match – and she was. In July, both Mertens and Durga underwent surgery to complete the kidney transplant. Durga commented, “I felt in my heart, from the very beginning, that this was my thing. Once I decided that, yes, I’m going to donate to Pat, I felt really good about it, and I was at peace with it throughout the entire thing.”

Kindergarteners at local school take on community projects, give back to State College community by Devin Jackson. Behind every good student is an even better teacher supporting them – in State College, Pennsylvania, there’s no exception to that. Natalie Wortman, a kindergarten teacher in State College, found innovative ways to help her young students give back to their community, including raising money for animal shelter Centre County PAWS. Speaking on her students’ efforts, Wortman commented,  “One of the last suggestions was have a penny drive, have the students bring in pennies and at the end of the month, we take whatever money we collected and use that money to sponsor an animal. We raised over $75 and were able to donate that money to support two cats and a dog.” Wortman and her students didn’t stop there. Jackson reports that they have donated supplies to the State College Food Bank and are currently writing letters of support to frontline workers. 

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