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. 

Tech-savvy students, teachers harness expertise to make medical supplies for local healthcare heroes by Julia Demma. At the onset of the pandemic, teachers and students across Michigan utilized their 3D printers to make personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers. In a sprawling article detailing these statewide efforts, Demma writes about STEM teacher Bethany Smith of Kesling Intermediate School and computer science teacher and media specialist Miles Fettinger from La Porte High School. Smith and Fettinger created face shields and 600 replacement eye shields using their schools’ 3D printers. They donated all of the PPE to frontline workers. Fettinger commented, “I come in twice a day to get to work on production, and I’m always happy to help. I really feel for our medical professionals right now and want to help them as much as I can. I would hate for somebody in the healthcare industry in La Porte to suffer if we had the ability to stop or slow the spread, and if this makes a difference, I am all for it.”

They teach all day. Between classes, they find vaccine appointments for strangers by Lola Fadulu. A group of public school teachers in Montgomery County, Maryland, have been doing their best to find vaccines for those that need them the most. Dubbing themselves the “Vaccine Hunters”, they have helped over 350 older adults sign up for vaccinations. After putting out the word of their efforts to Spanish-language news organizations and black and Latino churches, the group created a Google Voice phone number, so they can all monitor who is seeking help locating a vaccine appointment. Montgomery County Council member Gabe Albornoz commented on the groups’ efforts, “It is such a testament to this really dedicated group of teachers, nonetheless, who already give so much to our community through their day jobs. To continue to go above and beyond and assist our residents who are desperately in need right now is really fantastic, and impressive and greatly appreciated.”

Teacher’s message of ‘We are in this COVID crisis together’ spreads by Janet Rogers. At the beginning of the pandemic, teacher Darnelle Clark from Liberty Elementary School in Youngstown, Ohio, created Clark’s Cozy Corner, a YouTube channel where Clark would virtually read books to her students daily. In January, Clark was diagnosed with COVID-19 and proceeded to have a month-long hospitalization due to pre-existing conditions. When the community heard about this, a group donated 1,200 yellow masks to staff and students to wear throughout the school district to show their support for Clark. Clark commented on the support, “Sometimes after a medical emergency, I glanced at my phone, and it said yellow for Darnelle, and it really has uplifted me more than you’ll ever know. They have sent me videos that have blessed my spirit and encouraging words. I haven’t been able to send a video to them yet, but I’ve definitely received every seed of love they’ve sent me.” Clark has since returned home after her hospitalization. 

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