During the first week of May each year, parents and students across the nation celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week with flowers, cards and gifts.

As with most every other aspect of life, COVID-19 greatly altered the celebrations, which this year included Zoom watch parties and thank-you parades in keeping with social distancing.

After weeks of home schooling children during a pandemic, parents across the county have a newfound and much deeper appreciation for teachers, they said. And students do, too, they said.

Galveston resident Cynda Mullikin, and her 12-year-old son Andrew, a student at Satori School, said they appreciate teachers now more than ever after two months of home schooling because of campus closures.

“This experience, while unexpected, has been enlightening,” Mullikin said. “I respect his teachers so much and value what they’re teaching him. And, fortunately for us, my husband and I were both home and could help our son as needed, too.”

The pandemic and homeschooling required unexpected purchases, such as a new computer and printer Mullikin and her husband bought for Andrew to use for schoolwork. The Mullikins had to quickly learn programs such as Google Hangouts, Google Chats, Zoom and WebEx, she said.

“It’s unbelievable looking back to those early days how we felt a bit overwhelmed because now it’s like riding a bike to us,” Mullikin said. “During all of this, teachers have been available to help. Every teacher has been a strong support during this time, and we’ve never felt alone through this whole process.”

Before the pandemic, Andrew thought it was easy to teach, but he now realizes the pandemic forced his teachers to adapt and change, too, he said.

“Working from home has helped me to see that a good teacher is priceless, and that they can still educate us in any given situation,” he said. “My teachers were very helpful, and I was able to communicate with them at any time. This situation was just as hard for them as it was for me, and I’m glad they can help. The teachers were thoughtful, and I loved that they tried to make jokes and keep life as normal as possible for us.”

Andrew is looking forward to being with friends and teachers again, he said.

“I hope that we will be back in the classroom,” he said. “But even if we’re not, I know my teachers will still be able to give me the best Satori experience wherever we are.”

TEACHER SUPPORT GOES A LONG WAY

Texas City resident Ashlee Thomas, who graduated this month with an associate degree in nursing from Galveston College, has had to help her children with their online coursework, as well as complete her classwork online — all while being pregnant and giving birth in April to twins, she said.

“The most rewarding thing was actually having my children at home,” Thomas said. “I do now have a greater appreciation for teachers — especially their math teachers.”

Thomas’ oldest, Xavier Pratt Jr., a senior at Texas City High School, had to adjust to doing his schoolwork at home, he said. Home was comfortable and has more distractions than an actual classroom, he said.

“I can definitely say that I have a greater appreciation for not only my teachers, especially Coach James Sheppard, but all teachers,” Pratt said. “Although I haven’t had a chance to show my gratitude to them, I just want to let my teachers know I’m grateful for the help and effort they showed toward me. I know they have families at home to care for too, so thank you for taking the time.”

The most difficult thing was assisting with multiple grade levels and keeping her children involved with other tasks to stop them from becoming lazy, Thomas said.

“I appreciated the support the teachers and staff provided,” Thomas said. “I’ve wanted nothing more than for my children to succeed, and during this process it seemed like the odds were stacked against us. However, 2020 hasn’t been all bad because me and my first child will both receive diplomas, which gives me the most amazing feeling and I have no one but God to thank for that.”

‘THANK YOU’

For Dickinson High School senior Elaina Hubbell, working from home wasn’t as “easy” or carefree as people would think.

Hubbell was identified with learning disabilities and speech problems at the age of 3, her mother, Diana Mara, said. But with the help of Dickinson Independent School District teachers, Hubbell will be attending College of the Mainland in the summer, specializing in digital photography and advertisement.

“Elaina has worked really hard to get to where she is today,” Mara said. “I’m so grateful for all her teachers and instructional personnel who’s befriended her and were kind and helped her. She would’ve never made it without their help.”

Although the past few months have been challenging, Hubbell has no regrets and is thankful her teachers never gave up on her, she said.

“There are no words that I can say to show my teachers how much I appreciate them,” Hubbell said. “I missed them helping me and I really noticed it when they weren’t there. They helped me stay on track and stay focused even during this pandemic. All I can say is thank you.”

Angela Wilson: 409-683-5239; angela.wilson@galvnews.com

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