Superintendent Woods: Georgia Educators and Staff Have Shown Their Character Through Adversity
Thursday, February 3rd, 2022
It has been said that adversity is the greatest revealer of character. Since March of 2020, public education has seen its overwhelming share of adversity. Teachers and staff dealt with the abrupt suspension of face-to-face instruction in spring 2020. Educators and administrators had to adjust learning with the proverbial plane in mid-flight. They transitioned to virtual learning or created learning packets for continued instruction. Meals had to be delivered to students daily.
The 2020-2021 school year opened with much uncertainty. How would the pandemic truly impact schools and our society? Could we effectively, safely go back to face-to-face instruction? Basic routines – such as entering the school building, managing class transitions, and even serving lunch – were upended. Ever-changing quarantine procedures became a constant challenge. Many educators were asked to teach both virtually and in-person, thus doubling class preparations.
In 2022, while Georgia school districts are committed to offering face-to-face instruction, this remains a challenge due to personnel concerns. When teachers, bus drivers, substitutes, and cafeteria workers are out sick, having school in-person becomes an enormous task, and an already-overworked staff is stretched thin.
For many, these challenges have been paired with personal loss. Many, including myself, came face-to-face with COVID either personally or alongside a family member. In the Decatur County School District, a young administrator succumbed to COVID as this school year began. A former student of mine, who became a wonderful teacher, lost her life to this disease.
Life continued to provide heartache in other ways, as well, as a Dublin City Schools administrator and his family died in a tragic automobile accident. Recently, several teachers from South Georgia were killed in a tragic accident as well. In the face of such adversity, how could one even stand?
In the book of Ezekiel, God can be seen looking for someone to stand in the gap. In public education over these last several years, I have seen not one, but thousands, stand in the gap. From teachers to bus drivers to everyone in between, the education family of Georgia has stood strong to meet the educational and emotional needs of students. When uncertainty and weariness tried to knock them down, they rose and overcame every challenge that stood in their way.
I want to express my personal gratitude, and that of a grateful state, to each and all within public education. Because of your unselfish acts, the needs of our students are being met. We continue to move forward academically. These challenging days will come to an end, and you will get a much-needed rest.
I will end this message where I began. It has been said that adversity is the greatest revealer of character. We have seen it over and over again in the last two years: the character displayed by the educators, staff, students, and families of Georgia's public schools is unmatched.
Richard Woods, a former teacher and school leader, is Georgia's State School Superintendent.