May the 4th be with you, and happy Teacher Appreciation Day! 

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. 

This Connecticut professor refurbishes old computers and gives them to students in need. Coronavirus has made his cause more urgent than ever by Susan Dunne. Mark Prelli, former high school math teacher, professor at Northwest Connecticut Community College, and computer hobbyist, has been refurbishing donated used laptops and providing them to students in need for years. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he’s stepped up his operation. “Coronavirus shone a light on the inequity among school districts. At some, all kids have devices and working internet and parents who can monitor academics. But there are still students who don’t have technology at home. I still think there are kids trying to do schoolwork on a smartphone,” said Prelli. The community has stepped up as well by donating laptops and providing space for donations. “Access to technology is becoming a human right. That’s something I believe in. Everybody should have working technology,” he said. 

Chicago teacher designs math tool to help students while they learn from home by Micah Materre. At the onset of the pandemic, a Chicago teacher partnered with food distribution sites to hand out math kits to families. Second-grade teacher Lindsay Barnett created the math kits, called Pup Quiz, for kindergarten through fifth-grade students. Barnett initially designed the kits to help teachers, but when the pandemic began, her objective shifted. Since launching on March 1, 2020, and after partnering with several organizations, Barnett has donated more than 600 kits nationwide. Barnett commented, “There are millions of kids across the country that don’t have access to any e-learning technology you know they don’t have computers they don’t have wi-fi in our own city of Chicago there’s over 100,000 kids that don’t have any access. Being able to play a card game or sit and do an activity with your brothers and sisters is such a huge part of learning that you can do at home.”

Florence woman gives homemade masks to those in need by Carlos Flores. Joining a plethora of other teachers around the nation who chipped in to make medical supplies for frontline workers at the start of the pandemic, South Carolina special education teacher Kiawana Godfrey utilized her skills to create face masks. Teaming up with her mother and her son, Godfrey initially started making masks for essential workers but then offered them to the whole community, especially the elderly. Godfrey commented, “As elderly people you still have to go out for appointments and dialysis, things like that, so it just came onto me to do a basket full of masks and make sure each one of them has masks.”

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