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.  

Here are stories of public employees in service to their communities.

‘I never imagined this’: How the pandemic tightened bonds between parents and teachers at one southwest Denver school by Melanie Asmar. Throughout the pandemic, teachers across America have taken on more responsibilities. Often they are teaching students both virtually and in-person simultaneously throughout the school day. At Denver’s Newlon Elementary School, second-grade teacher Callie Gonyea has been juggling these duties while going the extra mile to ensure her students and their families are doing well. As part of a school-wide strategy, she made it her mission to check in with students and their families at least once a week. Gonyea commented, “When I’d call to check in, I’d ask, ‘What did you do over the weekend? What’s something you’re looking forward to?’ It allowed me to get to know them even more as people. … You get to know your students very well, but you don’t have a dedicated time to have a 5-minute unstructured conversation with every kid twice a week.” This outreach and relationship building with parents has created an environment where Gonyea can hone in on what students need help with the most. Gonyea continued, “There was part of me that was fearful that with all of this weirdness going on in the transitions and the schedule: Would there be learning? It looks different, but it’s still very much there. I’ve seen reading levels go up a lot. I’ve seen students come out of their shells socially and emotionally. That makes me feel good.”

Red Cross volunteer has helped people across nation who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 by David Mayberry. Rose Olmsted, a former Minnesota social worker, has used her years of experience helping people to volunteer with the Red Cross’ Virtual Assistance Center’s Integrated Care Condolence team. The team, set up to assist individuals who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, comprises mental health, behavioral health, and spiritual care professionals. Initially, she volunteered for a three-state region that included Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota, but with the demand, she has been taking calls from around the country. Olmsted commented, “It’s a privilege to be on this grief journey with the COVID-19 survivors. I don’t always have the answers, but some people simply need someone to listen to them about how painful this is. For me, that’s easy.”

20 teachers who went above and beyond for their students during the coronavirus pandemic by Mike Vulpo. In a sprawling piece for E!, journalist Mike Vulpo details the extra work 20 teachers across the world have been doing to help their communities. One of the teachers profiled was Illinois elementary school teacher Kathryn Snell. Snell  delivered a Student of the Month certificate to her student’s doorstep since she couldn’t get it in-person. Katie Galto, the student’s mother, commented,  “I couldn’t get over how thoughtful it was that she did that…It’s not surprising though, Ms. Snell has gone above and beyond to celebrate and recognize all of her students, and their accomplishments, since day one. They all adore her and it’s very easy to understand why!” 

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