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. 

Holidays ignite main street by Jason W. Selby. The community of Osage, Iowa is bringing back Main Street this holiday season. After celebrating the holidays remotely last year, the community is coming together to boost Main Street businesses during their Decemberfest event. Decemberfest, which began two years ago as part of the Iowa LEAD project, is run by two students from Osage Community Schools. “Decemberfest started as part of a campaign to get people to shop and stay local to celebrate the holidays,” said Katerina Walk, an Osage Community High School English teacher. Decemberfest includes a parade, a tree lighting ceremony, carriage rides, and many other festivities. 

Columbia High School teachers giving back to their community by Danielle Miller. After graduating high school, many students go on to college or trade school and move out of their hometowns. In Columbia, Pennsylvania, three former students have found their way back to their home county to give back through the teaching profession. Rebecca Ohrel, Jodie Eck, and Mark Wisler all found their way back to Lancaster County to become teachers at Columbia High School. “For me it feels like giving back. Columbia is a very tight knit community,” Eck says. “And you either know everyone on some level or you recognize people from Columbia and it’s nice to know that when you’re teaching here you’re giving back to the community.” The three have taught at Columbia High School for around twenty years. “My favorite part about teaching where I live is, and we’ve all talked about this before, is not even so much when the kids are here, which is awesome, but when you watch where they go after they graduate and the amazing things that our kids do,” says Ohrel.

When times get tough, there’s a potential hero in all of us by Cindy Schweich Handler. Writing for, Schweich Handler writes of several individuals in New Jersey who have inspired others. The pandemic has brought out the best in people from volunteers with Meals on Wheels to volunteer ambulance and rescue workers – many have found ways to give back to their communities. One of the individuals covered in this piece is physical education teacher Valerie Tauriello. While on bus duty at Soehl Middle School in Linden, New Jersey, Tauriello noticed that a parent exited their car without putting it in park. As the car started to roll backward, Tauriello jumped into the vehicle and put it in park before it could hit any schoolchildren. She did all of this while wearing an orthopedic boot after a foot injury. Some teachers have a sixth sense when it comes to protecting their students!

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