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. 

Master classes return to Columbine Elementary, bringing community and kids together by Norma Engelberg. Columbine Elementary School in Woodland Park, Colorado, is bringing back its “master class” series after being forced to pause during the coronavirus pandemic. The school’s series brings in former teachers, area business owners, and organizational leaders to expand the horizons of young students. Some of the classes include wildlife and birds with retired teacher Claudia Miller and early Spanish with Columbine staff members Juan Gonzalez and Cathy Messner. The classes are available on Fridays throughout the year, bringing the community, retired teachers, and students together. “Our vision is to celebrate community,” Principal Ginger Slocum said. “It’s wonderful to be able to bring this back. It’s good for our school and it’s good for our community. Master classes are part of our unique offerings for Columbine.”

At Chicago elementary school, staff, moms, kids step in when CPS can’t keep school clean by Benjamin Leo. No toilet paper or soap. Unclean hallways. And overflowing garbage. These are some of the things that Eberhart Elementary School on the Southwest Side of Chicago has faced this year. Aramark, the company that has been responsible for cleaning the school since Oct. 1, has only sent one custodian to clean the school daily. Eberhart is three stories and spans a city block. That’s when security guards, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members stepped in to help out. “It’s amazing actually, to see my assistant principal with a mop and a bucket going into the boys’ bathroom to clean up. Everybody’s pitching in,” said classroom aide Cindy O’Donnell. “I have my daughter helping me clean in the mornings of what’s left behind from the day before,” said Cynthia Centeno, a kindergarten aide, and mother of a sixth-grader. “I’ve seen cockroaches in the classrooms — something I have never seen before. It’s heartbreaking to come to school, thinking of what I’m going to have to clean instead of what I’m going to do for these kids.”

Lancaster teacher uses costumes to engage students, seeing big difference in grades by Morgan Newell. A teacher in Lancaster, South Carolina, has found a fun way to engage with his students since they returned to the classroom: dressing up in costumes. South Middle School social studies teacher CT Kirk has been dressing up as pharaohs, Spanish explorers, and other historical costumes to help his students while the school faces a teacher shortage and the coronavirus pandemic. “They start asking questions and that’s what we want to do as Social Studies teachers,” Kirk said. “We want to get them to inquire about certain things and be able to research.” Not only has Kirk found dressing up in costumes to be fun, but he’s seen his students’ grades go up as well. “I believe that teachers are those doorways to life. It’s one of the most important professions that we have. I want to be able to inspire other young men and other young women you can do great things in life in a positive way,” he said. 

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