Teacher Appreciation Week takes on new meaning with local schools closed



Teacher Appreciation Week is celebrated in May every year, but this year will definitely look and feel a lot different in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools systems across the nation started to announce closures in March and many will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year. That’s the case in both Virginia and North Carolina.

With students now learning from home, teachers also had some quick learning to do. They had to figure out how to educate virtually. They’ve had to turn to technology and in many cases, dramatically modify lesson plans.

10 On Your Side has covered several local stories of how teachers are truly going the distance to show their students how much they are loved and missed. From holding parades to see their students, to honoring them for their accomplishments with hand delivered signs and cheers after traditional celebrations were canceled, we’ve seen it all.

Teacher Appreciation Week is an opportunity to return the favor.

To show teachers how much they are appreciated and loved, the National PTA is encouraging families to get “emoji-tional“. Using the hashtag #ThankATeacher, tell your teacher how much you…

  • Love (❤️) how they encourage you in special ways
  • Like (👍) what’s happening in their virtual classroom
  • Celebrate (🎉) their achievements with students
  • Care about (😍) their commitment to students and families

They’ve made it easy to #ThankATeacher. Go to this link to download thank-you cards, certificates, flyers and even coloring sheets.

WAVY News 10 would love to hear what you’re doing to say thank you.

Email us at reportit@wavy.com or tag us on social media.

We’ll be highlighting local teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week on air and on WAVY.com.

Monday, May 4

Shoutout to Latoya Sawyers, a fifth grade teacher at Jenkins Elementary School in Newport News. Principal Kelly Stewart says Mrs. Sawyers has high expectations so her students know they need to give her 100% every day and they work hard for her because of the relationships she builds. Mrs. Sawyers sponsors the dance team, helps coordinate a black history program every year and supports students during the school’s afternoon program.

Tuesday, May 5

Raiesha Smith works at Treakle Elementary and Norfolk Highlands Primary schools in Chesapeake. 5th grade teacher Jessica Cunningham tells 10 On Your Side that Mrs. Smith is a wonderful teacher and co-worker. She provides amazing training to make sure all teachers are computer savvy, and has stepped up her game even more since schools shut down. 

Lori Donatelli helps York County teachers bring technology and real-world skills into classrooms at Grafton Middle and Bethel Manor Elementary schools. Dr. Vika Stephenson says Mrs. Donatelli is “the best of the best.” Although she has been especially busy as teachers move entirely to virtual learning systems, Mrs. Donatelli has still made time to support students and keep up morale by helping with a virtual spirit week. 

Wednesday, May 6

Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Redwood is the Navy Junior ROTC instructor at I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth. One of his students told 10 On Your Side he is deserving of recognition because he is kind and goes beyond the call of duty to make sure his students have what they need to fulfill their education. 

Kristen Turrietta is a second grade teacher at Norfolk Academy. She is finding creative ways to connect with her 20 students from a distance. When she couldn’t ‘bear’ to be apart from them any longer, she went to each of their homes with a giant teddy bear and a megaphone to check in with them. 

Thursday, May 7

A big Teacher Appreciation Week shoutout goes to Corey Perillo, a history teacher at Deep Creek Middle School in Cheseapeake. A parent tells us Mrs. Perillo makes history fun for her students, and is dedicated to getting to working with each of them.

Mrs. Corey Perillo

A shoutout to Brandi Bolt, a fifth grade teacher at Kegotank Elementary School in Accomack County. Tara Burdette tells 10 On Your Side Ms. Bolt is amazing with children and makes all of them feel special. During the pandemic, she has been proactive about virtual learning and mailed education packets to each of her students. 

Brandi Bolt is a fifth grade teacher at Kegotank Elementary School in Accomack County

Maurice Cullen teaches 7th grade life science at Princess Anne Middle School in Virginia Beach. He is adapting to virtual teaching by making videos for his students from his own backyard to teach them about biomes and pollinators. 

Maureen Houser was featured in a WAVY on air shout out. Mrs. Houser is a first grade teacher a Barron Elementary School in Hampton. Jen Humble, a first grade parent, says anyone who has Ms. Houser as a teacher is lucky, because she has a love for children and is invested in their social and emotional development. During the pandemic, she has visited her students’ homes to put signs in their yards and leave chalk drawings to brighten their days.

Friday, May 8

Brooke Gadberry teaches students ages 2 through 5 who are enrolled in Bayside Elementary School’s Early Childhood Special Education program. Assistant Principal Ashley Godfrey says Mrs. Gadberry is truly deserving of recognition during Teacher Appreciation Week because she “fosters meaningful and lasting relationships with her students and their families.” During the pandemic, Mrs. Gadberry has found creative and innovative ways to engage her young students from afar.

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