Public employees across the nation give back to their communities in extraordinary ways every single day. From donating to food banks to helping their neighbors and protecting their communities, public employees have always been there when their communities need them the most. 

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. In honor of World Teacher’s Day, here are some of their stories. 

Kailua preschool educator continues teaching while battling cancer in COVID world by Sam Spangler. When Debbie Morrow, a preschool teacher at Kailua Elementary in Honolulu, was diagnosed with her second round of cancer in 2020, she wanted to stay in the place she loved: the classroom. Morrow, who specializes in teaching children with autism, has weighed all of the risks of continuing teaching. With the help of K95 masks donated by a parent and the COVID-19 booster shot, she wants to stay in school. “I’ve had to really think about trying to juggle quality of life, which is being here and enjoying my work and my time, and then also knowing that there might come a point with heavier chemotherapy, I won’t be able to do that and having to come to peace with that,” Morrow said. Elizabeth Laloulo Espiritu, who has had three of her children attend Morrow’s classes, commented, “Debbie’s love for teaching extended for all of her students, not only my three children. She has supported and nurtured children in Kailua for almost 20 years.” Espiritu and other supporters created a fundraiser to help Morrow offset her medical bills. 

Volunteers make grocery runs amid pandemic by Paul Schwedelson. At the beginning of the pandemic, public employees stepped up to help their communities. In Bozeman, Montana, Kelsey Gahagan, a preschool teacher, and her boyfriend, Tanner Roderick, volunteered to deliver groceries to those who were uncomfortable leaving their homes. Gahagan and Roderick completed 25 grocery store trips, spending 150 miles on the road, all while not accepting any delivery charges. Gahagan, who was out of work due to her school being closed, commented, “It’s a super cool thing that the Rodericks are so big into giving back and helping the community. I’m glad I could be a part of it.”

Coahulla Creek High grad a “leader’ and ‘true partner’ in learning by Ryan Anderson. “Tough teachers are often the best teachers.” That was a message from student Katherine Walker, the salutatorian of Coahulla Creek High School class of 2021. Walker, a Georgia Scholar through the Georgia Department of Education, reflected on her experiences attending high school during the pandemic and singled out one teacher in particular who helped her prepare for the world: April Bryson, a literature teacher at the high school. Walker commented that Bryson’s classes “are notorious for being very, very tough, but (they) really prepare you for everything, and she’s a wonderful teacher who makes you better.” Bryson, who has taught for the last 18 years, would host ‘Socratic’ debates to challenge students’ ability to understand literature differently. Far too often, we overlook the teachers who make a difference in their classrooms every day. 

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