Teachers and support staff have faced a mountain of challenges of late, which has spurred on a number of ACT politicians to visit schools across Canberra to thank staff for their recent work.
While the disruption caused by COVID-19 has affected everyone, many of our teachers and school communities faced a great deal of uncertainty, especially at the height of the pandemic.
Faced with developing curricula for online learning to deftly pivoting to welcome students back into classrooms – and doing everything to ensure those processes ran as smoothly as possible – teachers and support staff in ACT schools have faced an uphill battle.
St Thomas Aquinas Primary School principal, Leah Taylor, told Canberra Weekly the whole of 2020 has been a “really unusual year for us”.
“Like all communities across Australia and Canberra, we have just knuckled down and got on with it.”
Ms Taylor said her greatest concern back in March when schools shut down was that it would make their school community more disparate.
“We thought about how we were going to bring our community together during that time, but everyone has made a huge effort to keep our community strong,” she said.
Ms Taylor said the Charnwood school put in place several measures to ensure continuity for students, especially for their younger children in pre-school.
“The teachers were very worried about how they were going to maintain sense of community within their small group; they, like the rest of the school, packed up home packs,” she said.
Upon closing, St Thomas Aquinas sent home packs out to all their students. For pre-school students, however, their teachers specifically went to every house, dropping the packs at their doorsteps while waving to their students through the window.
“For the older kids we did a drive-through where the kids got dressed up in pyjamas, we put balloons on cars, all those sorts of things just to do something,” she said.
As a way of thanking the staff at St Thomas Aquinas Primary School, ACT MLA Tara Cheyne visited the school last month, shouting them a morning tea.
“The whole school appreciated the visit … we didn’t expect and don’t expect morning tea for the work we do, but it was really lovely,” Ms Taylor said.
The ACT politician said she feels it’s important to thank both teachers and school support staff across Canberra, who have “simply gone above and beyond”.
“The effort teachers and support staff have put in to support their students and to keep connections and spirits high at all times has been nothing short of inspiring,” she said.
“It probably comes as no surprise that teachers and support staff have been extraordinarily humble about their role and how much they have stepped up in a year that’s been like no other.”
Similarly, Liberal Senator for the ACT, Zed Seselja, recently paid a visit to St John Paul II College in Gungahlin.
Senator Seselja said the school has “fostered a great school community, which was clear from the enthusiasm the teachers have for their jobs and the smiles on the students’ faces throughout the school”.
“The kids are clearly loving being back in the classroom and seeing their friends every day. As a parent and as Senator, it was fantastic to see face-to-face learning underway again.”
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