Your Views: Celebrating ACPS educators and staff

Your Views: Celebrating ACPS educators and staff
A fourth grade classroom (Photo Credit: Missy Schrott)

To the editor:

As Alexandria City Public Schools nears the end of the first quarter of the year, there is much to be thankful for. Children are in school five days a week. Teachers and students are now acquainted with one another. Classrooms have bonded and new friendships have developed. Great learning is taking place.

But beyond the normal constraints of time, space and resources, the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have placed enormous new burdens on our teachers and school staff. As parents and caregivers, we too are balancing our gratitude for our children being back in the classroom with the many pandemic uncertainties that test our routines and sense of order.

We have asked our educators and staff to pivot – to learn new modes of teaching, to master new technology and to recover as much learning loss as possible – all while counting on them to provide the social, emotional and physical support our kids need now more than ever. At the same time, school personnel are being asked to navigate unprecedented health, safety and security requirements. We should not overlook that we have laid this burden at their feet as they too struggle with their own families, health and pandemic disruptions. Many of them are parents too.

We want to publicly and emphatically thank our school staff for their hard work and dedication. We see them shaping our children’s lives every single day. They broaden horizons, they enrich and transform lives and, by doing so, they make the world a better place.

We know that our ACPS teachers and school staff, like so many around the country, are stressed, tired and discouraged. As parents and caregivers, we wish we could provide immediate solutions to get us closer to a sense of normalcy or fill the shortage of substitutes. To that end, we do encourage parents to apply to be substitutes at the following link:

In addition to extending our appreciation, we can advocate for efforts and solutions at a local and state level that can make things easier for our school staff. We applaud ACPS for their recent decisions to prioritize teachers’ and staff mental health and hope that additional efforts to support emotional well-being will be offered. We urge ACPS to continue to explore creative solutions to encourage staff retention and increase the substitute teacher pool, while rewarding staff for their extra work.

As ACPS continues to navigate the demands of the pandemic, we hope they prioritize letting our teachers teach. Additional resources, particularly federal funding, should be tapped to address the non-instructional burdens our teachers and school administrators are carrying, like lunch monitoring, contact tracing and health and safety mitigation.

Our teachers and staff also deserve a safe work environment, and federal and state funding should be directed toward upgrading current building conditions. More than ever, we need our teachers concentrating on what they’re most skilled at: nurturing our children’s curiosity and academic growth.

We ask all members of our community to think about how they can share their gratitude to our teachers and school staff, who every single day nurture and encourage our children to meet their full potential. Send a note of thanks. Consider another kind gesture. And to our fellow parents, we see you and extend an invitation to help us build upon the family-school partnership ideal upheld by the organizations we lead.

-Maureen McNulty, president, Alexandria PTA Council; Missy Estabrook, president-elect, PTAC; Katy Matthews, treasurer, PTAC; Linda Williams, secretary, PTAC; Staci Rijal, vice president/ communications, PTAC; Melissa Harrington, vice president/ programs, PTAC; Bill Pfister, past president, PTAC; Sally Hunnicutt, advocacy chair, PTAC; Mariam Fikre, co-chair, diversity, equity & inclusion committee, PTAC; Greta Gordon, co-chair, diversity, equity