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Speaking Out: Our overlooked COVID heroes

By  Kathleena Henricus, Youth Speak News
  • July 15, 2020

Over the last four months, the world has become reacquainted with what’s important in life. For everything we’ve lost, COVID-19 has compelled us to take an introspective look at our priorities and what jobs and provided necessities society on the whole now regard as essential.

Many people, deservedly so, are being praised for their vital contributions: our frontline health-care workers, doctors, nurses, researchers, and our supply chain stabilizers, cashiers, grocers, long-haul truck drivers. These individuals are the brick and mortar of our current existence.

However, one group of key professionals is consistently not included in the dialogue. Educators have long gone unrecognized as a core part of a students’ upbringing, and have been vital during these uncertain times.

It was just before the pandemic struck in mid-March that Ontario teachers were in tense, acrimonious labour negotiations with the province. Teachers went from strike action and work-to-rule to full-time, online education without any additional materials, plans or funding, and were expected to provide three months of lectures and content.

As a Grade 11 student at Cawthra Park Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont., I can confirm that my teachers played a significant role in keeping me sane over the past several months. Our teachers went above and beyond to provide us with way more than an education. To keep up some semblance of human connection, teachers organized group calls and graduation celebrations, even going as far as setting up weekly chats to check in on students individually.

As an arts student, my peers and I have an especially close relationship with our music teachers. During the last three years of my education, my peers and I all worried continuously about our program being shut down as more emphasis is historically placed towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and other “intellectual subjects.”

I’ll never forget when my teacher told us, “STEM makes the work go ’round (especially during COVID), but art makes the world worth living in.” Quarantine has bred such an innate sense of innovation into specialized programs and even in us. We find new ways to keep connected, keep our sanity and continue to interact with those we love while doing what we love.

While recognizing educators, it is also crucial that we celebrate and support new moms and dads, and parents with young children. It is hard enough to supplement a child’s learning, but to have been thrust into a primary education role is an entirely different level of commitment. We should be praising them however we can.

As Catholics, we have always been taught to support and uplift one another, and at this time more than ever we must look to the people who have long been and continue to help us thrive and make sure they get the support and love they need too.

(Henricus, 17, is going into Grade 12 at Cawthra Park Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont.)

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