SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — As we continue celebrating excellent educators in Hampton Roads, today we take a trip to Suffolk. With fewer than 30 days left in the school year they’re in the final stretch of what’s been a long and unpredictable race. But as 10 On Your Side’s Anita Blanton found out, one teacher’s extra efforts have gone a long way to help everyone pull through as one.

From March of 2020 through March of this year, the hallways were pretty much empty at King’s Fork Middle School, but that doesn’t mean educators like Monica Vaughan weren’t hard at work 

“In the beginning I was very nervous,” said Vaughan. “In the beginning there was so much anxiety, so much unknown, and you couldn’t ask anyone how to do it because no one had did it before. We had to encourage each other a lot more like ‘hey you got it.'”

As time has passed they’ve found their groove by working as a team to make sure both teachers and students were alright, whether they’re in school or at home. “Before we can teach them we have to make sure they are fine,” said Vaughan. “We have to make sure they’re mentally stable.”

And for an excellent educator that means working beyond the building’s walls and school hours.

“We made little gift bags for them and took them and hung them on every door of every child that’s on my case load,” said Vaughan. “A lot of times we’ll say ‘OK if you can’t work right now what time can you work’? If you show up, if you promise me you’ll show up, I’ll be on the other end. We’re emailing. A lot of times we’re saying are you good? A lot of times before class starts we’ll text don’t forget class is about to start.”

It’s a running theme of going above and beyond to keep everyone engaged and to reach kids in new ways. Change hasn’t been without challenges.

“The last year has been very challenging,” said Vaughan. “I love my students. I love the teachers I work with. I love my co-teachers. I love my 8th grade family. King’s Fork Middle School is a family.”

She says some students have regressed. Many have felt overwhelmed. So you’ll find positive affirmations all around.

Little reminders from people who care to keep student’s spirits up and keep their surroundings clean so they can keep pushing forward through this pandemic together, as the halls and their lives slowly but surely return to normal.