ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Team Robins is joining the nation to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, May 3-7.
This annual event highlights educators for their service and contributions to students inside and outside of the classroom.
“We’ve always appreciated our teachers and youth program staff,” said Col. Brian Moore, Robins Installation Commander. “But with the dedication they’ve given from the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to now, our gratitude has grown immensely. They all are true heroes.”
“As a result, this Teacher Appreciation Week we want to thank all of our teachers from the bottoms of our hearts,” he continued. “Thank you for inspiring, caring, listening, guiding, and shaping our children’s futures.”
Antoinette Singleton, 78th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center Flight chief, described the teachers as the embodiment of the phrase, “Keep calm and carry on.”
“They displayed the epitome of resiliency, courageousness and bravery,” said Singleton. “There was no playbook to flip through for guidance. No one was prepared on how to respond. But their hearts are for the children and that was enough to motivate them to rise beyond their fear. It’s also important to note we had a strong leader in Patricia Gurr, who was the flight chief last spring.”
Throughout the health crisis, school instruction and childcare services never stopped on the installation.
However, both CDC locations and the School Age Center were temporarily combined into one location. That’s because there were fewer students being served.
Singleton said at the height of the hysteria, there were days where attendance was below a dozen children present.
To keep students on track with their school work, the preschool staff started teaching classes through video conferencing.
“I was happy to do that because I wanted to keep the kids on their routine,” said Tee Magras, 78th FSS CDC West lead teacher. “The children wanted to see their friends and this was a way to make that happen.”
LaKendra Jordan, 78th FSS CDC West pre-k teacher, said she contracted the virus early on and thankfully recovered quickly. And once physically able, she joined her colleagues in teaching students virtually.
As the rise in infection cases continued to dominate social media and the news, veteran educator Monica Williams said the situation tested everyone’s resolve and brought them closer together.
“Whew, oh boy. We all had emotions all over the place. But, we know we wanted to be strong for ourselves and our students who we care so much about,” said Williams, 78th FSS CDC East lead teacher for 3 and 4 year olds. “This taught us we can get through anything together. We leaned on each other, and that’s how we survived this.”
Battling fears of the unknown almost mentally paralyzed teacher Tamara Hollis.
“As much as I loved my students, I wondered if I could still teach them. I was nervous about being around them. I didn’t want to get sick, and I didn’t want them sick,” said Hollis, 78th FSS CDC East lead teacher for 3 and 4 year olds. “I was happy when I was able to get vaccinated. With the masks, I tried to make a game out of wearing them to help encourage my students to keep the masks on.”
The pandemic also changed the way school-age children enjoyed their downtime after school and on summer break.
“We had to cancel off base field trips,” said Linda Cleveland, 78th FSS SAC Youth director. “We had to get creative. The kids went on virtual trips to learn about different countries or they played online games, and the youth clubs also were virtual. It’s not an ideal situation, but we are still doing what we can to keep the kids engaged.”
Safety continues to be a priority under the new normal brought on by the coronavirus.
“I know we are all grateful to the staff who keep the buildings clean and sanitized. They play an important role in helping keep us all safe. This is an ongoing team effort,” said Cleveland.
Moore is proud of the way Team Robins educators handled the challenges of the pandemic.
“Our teachers at the CDC and SAC programs came together to find solutions to help our families during the pandemic,” he said. “In what could only be described as an unprecedented situation, they found ways to overcome the challenges and barriers put into place by the virus and ensured our children continued to receive the best care available, enabling our personnel to continue achieving the Air Force mission when much of the world came to a standstill. For that, I, along with Team Robins, will be forever grateful to our caretakers who supported our children and families through the pandemic.