This week is special because it is Teacher Appreciation Week.
Each year for the past four years, the Fillmore County Journal has published a section dedicated to recognizing area teachers. Historically, with our circulation solely focused on Fillmore County, we would only recognize teachers working in the six school districts within the county.
With our newspaper’s expansion as of April 1, 2020, we are now covering 11 school districts. You’ll notice many familiar names in the Teacher Appreciation Week Section appearing in this week’s newspaper.
Without a doubt, this has become a strange finish to the school year, and teachers, students, and parents have had to unexpectedly adapt to distance learning.
I’m sure it has been a challenge at different times throughout the past several weeks.
And, I’m guessing there are many students and teachers who want to get back to the physical classroom. They miss the good old days.
While many people may feel we are more connected now than ever before due to technology, I would argue that technology also keeps us apart.
There’s nothing comparable to seeing someone face-to-face and giving them full undivided attention.
I realize that’s not possible right now, due to concerns with the pandemic.
So, we have to deal with the cards we are dealt.
I knew that this year’s presentation for the Teacher of the Year Award was going to be different than the first three years.
With our past award recipients, R-P’s Mary Hoiland, R-P’s Mary Ellen Dean, and FC’s Jackie Whitacre, we gathered all of the teachers and students in the school into the gymnasium, and I was the only person who knew who would be announced as the Teacher of the Year.
This year, we couldn’t operate that way. With social distancing, we’d have to make the award presentation in a much less crowded space. There wouldn’t be a picture of the students gathered around the Teacher of the Year.
Working with Fillmore Central Principal Heath Olstad, we coordinated a plan to make the presentation in front of 2020 Teacher of the Year recipient Gerri Nielsen’s house in Harmony, Minn.
So, how would we get her there at a specific time for this presentation?
Olstad deserves all the credit. He talked to Gerri’s friend and fellow teacher, Becky Mueller, and the plan started to come together. Becky would come up with a reason for the two of them to go for a walk.
Meanwhile, Olstad contacted the Harmony Ambulance and Fire Departments to coordinate a parade in front of Gerri’s home at the same time the presentation was taking place.
Everything fell into place for the presentation at 9 a.m. on Thursday, April 30, 2020. Right when Gerri walked up to her driveway alongside Becky, the parade of lights and sirens started rolling down the street toward her house.
Whether standing in your school gymnasium among 500 students and faculty, or standing in your driveway watching a parade in your honor, they both become memorable for everyone involved – and for different reasons.
While we cannot get together like we so badly want to at this time, it’s great to see that we can be creative in the way we show support for each other.
Congratulations to Gerri Nielsen for being named Teacher of the Year in 2020!
Gerri has been nominated the past four consecutive years, and she received the most nominations in 2020.
Thank you to all of our teachers navigating this ever-changing landscape of education. This would be a great week for parents and students to send a “thank you” message to their teachers.