While it certainly doesn’t feel like any “back-to-school” season we have experienced before, teachers in Houston County returned to their classrooms today to prepare to welcome students next week. Each year our Robins Regional Education Foundation provides awards for the system-wide Teacher of the Year finalists and the Houston County School System Teacher of the Year. We normally make the presentation as part of the Board of Education’s Opening Session event where every teacher and administrator in the system is in attendance to participate in a giant pep rally for education. It is truly an exceptional event. This year’s Opening Session was delivered to educators virtually this year, and the Teacher of the Year winners from each school were celebrated at a small ceremony this afternoon. So while I don’t have a name to share for the system-wide winner, I do have a few thoughts I wanted to share as we as a community prepare for “back-to-school.”

PARENTS & THOSE WHO EMPLOY STUDENTS: We need to set an optimistic tone with our kids and in our conversations with others about the return to school whatever that looks like for your family – in-person, virtual, home-school, whatever. Students today are already the most anxious generation in modern history, and now they live in the most anxious time. Let’s give them an extra measure of grace as they “find their way” in navigating what has to become “normal” now.

EMPLOYERS: Parents (and students) are faced with challenges they have never experienced before. Support them; try to understand that everyone is attempting to make the best decision they can with the resources available. Personally, I feel like every decision I make is wrapped in jello; and there is no clear “best way” to go on with our lives and our kids’ education. Understanding at work will go a long way to help your employees feel supported and valued.

All of us can strive to make things as normal and comfortable as possible. Support our local businesses by going back-to-school shopping. In addition to tradition in-store shopping, many local retailers have Facebook groups, online sales, and generous return policies so your kids can try on clothes and send back what doesn’t fit. If in doubt, ASK! They want your business.

While you may not be able to send little Suzie to school with the paper towels and Clorox wipes you normally do, teachers LOVE gift cards. The start of the school year is always hectic, so why not give that teacher one less thing to worry about with a restaurant or grocery gift card instead!

And finally, support our leaders. I have known Dr. Scott for nearly two decades now, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the decisions he, the board, and the executive team make are with the best interests of our students and teachers in mind. There is no crystal ball. There are often more questions than answers; but as a parent and community champion, I, for one, am comforted knowing that we have the best in the state right here in Houston County. Pray for our leaders, support them, and if you have suggestions or resources, offer them in a constructive way that will build toward a brighter tomorrow.

The video above is posted on our Facebook page since we were not able to participate in Opening Session in person this year. Help us show teachers just how much support they have by sharing this post and comment with your own encouragement to our educators. The kids in their classrooms could be your future employees, neighbors, or even employers one day. Their success is critical to create the desired future for our community. Show them that they have our support because together, we are Robins Strong.