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 and school personnel 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 and school personnel across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Thank you: Huron Valley Schools distributes more than 100,000 free meals by the Oakland Press. From March to the end of May 2020, teachers and school personnel from Huron Valley Schools (HVS) in Michigan distributed over 100,000 free meals to families and children in the span of three months. The Grab and Go Student Meals program, funded by the Michigan Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been a big success in the school district, where about 30 percent of students participate in the free and reduced-cost meal program. Superintendent Paul Salah commented,  “HVS staff members have stepped up in so many ways to help ease the impact of COVID-19 — whether through teaching and learning, handing out Chromebooks or distributing meals.”

Teacher gives up job to help farmworkers survive pandemic by Daniela Pardo and Hannah Poukish. Ricardo Castorena gave up his career and livelihood as an English as a second language teacher to make sure California farmworkers were taken care of during the pandemic. Through his nonprofit, Binational of Central California, he has served over 75,000 agricultural workers by providing them personnel protective equipment (PPE), educating them on the importance of getting tested and vaccinated, and even provided $250 relief checks to 120 farmworkers over the holidays. Castorena commented, “I want to make sure that they know they are important, that they matter. They are a critical piece, especially in California. They’re important to our households even though some of us might not even realize how important they truly really are.”

Reuniting Madison students, instruments a major opus by Pamela Cotant. At the onset of the pandemic, when students started at-home learning, Madison, Wisconsin schools wanted to get musical instruments in their students’ hands so they could keep up with practice. Teachers across the region worked with school personnel to hold safe drive-thru events so their students could pick up their instruments. Alida LaCosse, a music specialist at Wright Middle School, participated in the distribution and added a little care package for each of her students. LaCosse commented, “The kids don’t expect it. When I hand them their care package, there is always a little squeal of delight.”

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