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.

Teacher Appreciation Week: Chalkbeat readers salute educators who went above and beyond by Susan Gonzalez. Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and Chalkbeat’s Gonzalez asked readers to submit teachers to be showcased in this piece. All over the country, teachers have been doing their best to support their students and communities. One of the teachers highlighted in the sprawling article was Timothy Dailey, a music and band teacher at Horizon High School in Thornton, Colorado. Kim Flanagan, a parent of one of Dailey’s students, said, “Mr. Dailey has gone above and beyond to provide marching, concert, and competition experiences for his students during this strangest of school years. He has found ways to build a community with his students whether they were in person, remote, quarantined, or any other combination of situations. He has been extremely patient, kind, and understanding while at the same time not lowering his expectations for each student to reach their full potential as a musician. Thank you for being an incredible teacher!”

County emergency manager recognized as “Hometown Hero” by Sen. Heinrich for COVID-19 work by Joshua Kellogg. Since the pandemic began last year, thousands of public servants around the country have worked behind the scenes to keep their communities safe. The public doesn’t know their names, nor do they seek attention. Often underpaid and understaffed, these public health workers and community emergency managers faced extraordinarily tough situations. Last week, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich recognized one of these heroes in his state of New Mexico. San Juan County Emergency Manager Mike Mestas has been on the front lines over the last year. In recognition of his service, Sen. Heinrich presented Mestas with an American flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capitol. Mestas commented on receiving the flag, “I felt very, very happy and overwhelmed with joy.”

3rd-Grade Teacher in Washington County Uses Creativity To Stand Out by Amy Wadas. Throughout our lives, many of us can point to at least one teacher who truly made a difference and helped us understand challenging concepts. In Washington County, Pennsylvania, third-grade math, science, and social studies teacher, Danielle Berdar is that teacher for many. To help her students fully understand one of her lessons, Berdar is doing something outside the box. Berdar said, “The science lesson we are doing right now is on embryology. So we are going to be hatching baby chicks in our classroom. That’s always an exciting third-grade project. I just want to make sure that the students are loving coming to school. That’s most important to me because if they love coming to school, then the learning will come.” During a year of in-person and remote learning, Berdar was recognized for her contributions to the classroom. Beth-Center Elementary Principal Zach Just commented, “There’s nothing she won’t do to get them to understand the material.” 

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