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Robins Teacher Appreciation Week: Celebrating True Heroes of Service

lady with puzzle

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – LaKendra Jordan, 78th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center East pre-kindergarten teacher, helps students put a puzzle together during the class’s activity time at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, April 27, 2021. The CDC and School Age Center provide care to children of military personnel in an enriched environment allowing their parents to focus on the mission needs of the Department of Defense. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)

lady kneeling on playground with pre-kids

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Tamara Hollis, 78th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center East lead teacher for 3 and 4 year olds, keeps watch on the playground at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, April 27, 2021. The staff at the CDC found ways to continuously care for the children at their facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, including finding ways to virtually engage with those unable to attend their classes physically. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)

lady at table with students

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Monica Williams, 78th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center East lead teacher for 3 and 4 year olds, watches her students play during recess at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, April 27, 2021. The personnel at the CDC and with the School Age Center found ways to still provide for their students during the coronavirus pandemic, including mask wearing and virtual learning. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)

Three people standing

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Col. Rosalie Duarte, 78th Air Base Wing vice commander and Chief Master Sgt. Carlos Labrador, 78th ABW command chief, coined Antoinette Singleton, 78th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center Flight chief, during a visit to celebrate the start of Teacher Appreciation Week at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, May 3, 2021. Singleton was thanked for her leadership and helping guide staff at the CDC to continue to provide care for the children, including virtual engagements, and made sure to keep the kids’ learning environment safe and healthy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)

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.”      

Two women talking
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE,GA. – Col. Rosalie Duarte, 78th Air Base Wing vice commander, gives thanks to Shirley Mitchum, 78th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center West pre-school teaching assistant, during a visit to celebrate the start of Teacher Appreciation Week at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, May 3, 2021. The nationwide event is May 3-7 and highlights educators for their contributions to students inside and outside of the classroom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)
Two women talking
Teacher Appreciation Week
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE,GA. – Col. Rosalie Duarte, 78th Air Base Wing vice commander, gives thanks to Shirley Mitchum, 78th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center West pre-school teaching assistant, during a visit to celebrate the start of Teacher Appreciation Week at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, May 3, 2021. The nationwide event is May 3-7 and highlights educators for their contributions to students inside and outside of the classroom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)
Photo By: KISHA JOHNSON MW167
VIRIN: 210503-F-MW167-1012
“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.”

Man reading book
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE,GA. – Chief Master Sgt. Carlos Labrador, 78th Air Base Wing command chief, reads to a pre-school class at the Child Development Center East facility at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, May 3, 2021. Teacher Appreciation Week is a time to celebrate educators for their dedication and positive impact on students. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)
Man reading book
Teacher Appreciation Week
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE,GA. – Chief Master Sgt. Carlos Labrador, 78th Air Base Wing command chief, reads to a pre-school class at the Child Development Center East facility at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, May 3, 2021. Teacher Appreciation Week is a time to celebrate educators for their dedication and positive impact on students. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)
Photo By: KISHA JOHNSON MW167
VIRIN: 210503-F-MW167-1013
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.