Meet 20 Teachers Bringing Positivity to the Classroom During an Unpredictable School Year

On National Teacher's Day, E! News honored 20 teachers who continue to go above and beyond during an unpredictable school year. Meet the educators who won't let COVID-19 dampen their positivity.

By Mike Vulpo May 04, 2021 2:00 PMTags
Watch: Teachers Share Uplifting Messages to Students Amid Coronavirus

The influence of a good teacher can never be erased. 

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic caused schools to put a pause on in-person learning, instructors across the country have had to adjust lesson plans, master new technology services and adapt to an unpredictable work environment.

But through changing guidelines and new directions, teachers of all grade levels have stepped up to ensure their students receive the best education possible.

"The response from our teachers across the nation was determined, creative and student-focused," California's Ladera Ranch Middle School assistant principal Orla Murphy explained to E! News. "Our educators embraced collaboration nationwide, building forums through Facebook and Instagram groups and pages. Lessons were shared, technology was taught and learned and teams of teachers were working together harder and stronger than ever."

The middle school administrator—and former teacher—continued, "Putting our students and their education at the forefront, teachers rebuilt the face of education together. Our staff celebrated technology victories together, wept in frustration together, shared successful tools and failures, all with vulnerability and grace."

As schools across the country celebrate National Teacher's Day on May 4, E! News wanted to do its part and honor just some of the many educators going above and beyond the call of duty. 

Teachers' Acts of Kindness During Coronavirus

While each school district is continuing the school year in different ways, the teachers below all have something in common: They are finding the positive in an unpredictable time. 

As Orla shared with E! News, "The last [year] has been a testimony to the dedication and selflessness actions our teachers have made to student success." Perhaps the least we can do is say thank you. 

Anna Wiles

+ Elementary School Music Teacher in Nashville, Tennessee

"About a year ago, teachers had their world turned upside down. But we persisted. We decorated our cars to go spend 3 hours waving at our students. We used the new technology (while still trying to figure it out) all because we LOVE our students. 12 months later and things are still so challenging for teachers and students alike. But teachers are still teaching. Students are still learning. We've grown, we've adapted, and we've worked.. HARD. If you are a teacher reading this, please know how strong you are. You are amazing and the work you do each day matters more than you know." 

Alina Bitter

Second/Third Grade Teacher in Orange County, Calif.

"I'm teaching a unit about inspiration!! We talked about people who can inspire us, so as an example, I shared how my own teachers inspired me to be a teacher. One of my students said, 'Even though school is really hard right now with COVID, I want to work hard so I can be a teacher like you.' ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!"

Natalia Bedtke

Seventh and Eight Grade Spanish Teacher in Cook County, Illinois

"This is what surviving today looks like! My feet hurt, but I got all my steps in today. It was so awesome to see kids in person. Some of them look so different in person! And that isn't just because their camera was always pointing at the ceiling. I have classes from 3-9 kids throughout the day. Group B is coming tomorrow, and I am so excited to do the 'first' day of school for the third time!"

Kelli Sanders

Second Grade Teacher in McLean County, Illinois

"Today I forgot to take attendance (because duh), didn't get to two activities, survived recess duty without a coat, & had two sips out of my FULL coffee mug. BUT I got to talk to kids in person, help them shop for NEW books, ran a small group & HAD FUN with my students and tomorrow I get to do this all over again with a brand new group of kiddos. I am so tired after DAY ONE but we did it!"

Rochelle Fitzpatrick

+ Ninth and Tenth Grade English Teacher in Tampa, Florida

"Though this year has been nothing short of a dumpster fire, I celebrate the fun and engaging learning experiences I have had with my students. I love the bonds I have built with my students over the years, and this career has brought me so much joy and purpose."

Macey Malo

+ Pre-K Teacher in Rhode Island

"I don't think I would have made it this far in my first year of teaching with out my kiddos! This year has been tough with a lot of tears, but those tears are slowly turning into lessons and making me a better teacher! Teaching definitely is not an easy profession, but all the little minds in my class make it all worth it!"

Theresa Copeland

+ Second Grade Teacher in Florida

"This mic is everything. Channeling my inner pop star has never felt so good! And the fact that my students call themselves my backup dancers makes it even better."

Laura Olson

Kindergarten Teacher in San Marcos, California

"First day of school in the books...and it was unlike anything i've ever experienced before! Being alone in my classroom felt very surreal..and I know we're all missing our familiar. But with everything feeling so different, simply seeing those little smiling faces on my screen this morning reminded of what's the same: Teachers really love your children.

The kids make the job for us! And we really, really care. So much so that we'll openly give up weekends, work unpaid hours and put the most thought and care we can to give your child a meaningful experience. We want to go back! So badly.. we just want to do so when it's safe. So please wear a mask, be flexible, practice empathy and lets give all parents, educators and students some grace: we're all trying, and truly doing the best we can." 

Ajiah Daley

+ Third Grade Teacher in Las Vegas

"Welcome to my office/dining room table. It's covered with everything I need to run a business, teach, and tend to my baby girl. It's not lavish like many of the post you see on your feed, yet I still enjoy every bit of working here.

This experience has given me a new vision of my life. I use to think that I'd retire from teaching at 50. Now, I'm grinding hard each day to make working from home my permanent reality. I don't want to miss my daughter's milestones or the milestones of her future siblings. The freedom I feel is refreshing. This is the life I want, and I've got a plan to get it."

Asia Hines

+ Seventh Grade Math Teacher in Bristow, Virginia

"I can't imagine ever teaching anything other than middle school.Today: Zoom failed me!! Whenever I screen-shared, my students could only see a black screen. It was awful—But thankfully Nearpod saved the day until I could figure out how to fix Zoom (restarting my laptop did the trick.)

Throughout it all, my students assured me it was 'okay' and we'd get through this together. It's so cute how they turn into the geek squad to try to help." 

Dustin Ecker

+ Forth Grade Teacher in Indianapolis

"Y'all...we are teaching during a global pandemic. No matter what that looks like for you, it looks different than ever before. We cannot control when things will return to normal, but we CAN control what we do with the hand we've been dealt. So find your circle, spread some positivity and take it easy on yourself. This is hard. But we're in it together."

Mariza M. Davilla-Madwid

+ High School Spanish Teacher in Bethel, Connecticut

"Things I never thought I would say when starting teaching hybrid this week. ⁣⁣
Cameras should be on… so I know you are in class
Mute yourself after you talk please⁣⁣
I can't hear you! Can you speak louder? ⁣⁣
Unmute yourself! ⁣⁣
Your computer is what? Lagging? Shut down and restart! ⁣⁣
Hola, are you there? Oh, she went MIA!⁣⁣
No, you cannot leave the zoom call after I take attendance ⁣⁣
You can also ask questions on the chat⁣⁣

Teaching in 2020. This is the new normal. ⁣⁣Also I may have been talking on mute a couple of times until that one kid let me know."

Lexe Roberts

+ Kindergarten Teacher in Chester, South Carolina

"Survived my first day of Kindergarten! It was such a fun day getting to know my littles! I will not lie to you and tell you it was perfect, because it was far from it! BUT the only thing that matters is that my littles had fun and already told me they love school! It broke my heart when I told them I would see them on Monday (because they are group A and I don't get to see them everyday) and the sad face expressions and questions I got about not coming back tomorrow. 'Ms. Roberts, I want to come back tomorrow!' I'm ready for my SECOND first day of school with Group B!" 

Sophi Frangenberg

+ High School Art Teacher in Wichita, Kansas

"Well, we made it through another week. I would be lying if I said being a teacher right now is normal, but honestly, it's far from that. Regardless, I am beyond grateful to see my high schoolers even if it's only 2x a week. I think it's safe to say teachers are learning and adapting faster than the speed of light. It is intimidating at times, but ultimately, it's what we are CALLED to do to help these students succeed. They need us and we need them. I may be quite overwhelmed at times and have felt rather defeated more often than not, BUT I found so many moments of joy aside from the craziness.

I encourage you all to take a moment and find something to be grateful for, even if it seems small. The world seems overwhelming. I am overwhelmed. My students are overwhelmed. To me, finding the small, positive joys around make these overwhelming moments seem minor. So, pray for teachers, pray for students and pray for the tiny joys to continue to arise." 

Abigail Ack

Special Education Teacher in Columbus, Ohio

"In person, half and half, or fully virtual... one thing all our students are needing is SEL and emotional regulation skills. Self-regulation is hands down my absolute favorite thing to teach, and I'm actually looking forward to the challenge of figuring out how to best still teach these skills regardless of how this school year looks!"

Ha Dinh

First Grade Teacher in Texas

"I still love greeting my students each morning, even if there's some distance between us!" 

Heather Shipley

+ Instructor at University of Alabama

"This is teaching in 2020. Constantly shrinking class sizes. Masked faces. Plexiglass partitions and socially distant seats. But if 2020 has taught me anything, it's that worry adds nothing to today and robs us of the hope of tomorrow.
There's so much we can't control, but there are still so many things we can. I'm choosing hope and looking forward to the future. Don't let tomorrow's worry steal today's joy." 

Melody Munch

+ Second Grade Teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma

"Dear Teacher Friend, You are KILLING it. I see your big heart and your hard work.I am in awe of the creative ways you're finding to make things the best they can be for your students.

Keep focusing on what's most important-those RELATIONSHIPS. Accept that there will always be more on your to-do list. And there will be times the list is wayyyy to long! Give yourself GRACE for the chaos. Grace for those unfinished tasks. Everyone has to put the list down at the end of the day. Put it down proud of how much you HAVE done. 

This is a note to myself as well, but mostly it's for you." 

Madison Taylor Jantzen

+ Kindergarten Teacher in Dallas, Texas

"I absolutely adore my 13 precious kinders! I have a giant list of TODO list/things to change/fix before tomorrow. One of the hardest things for me is that I can't be that PERFECT teacher, but that is OK! We can't be perfect. Everyday I'm going to learn something new. A new way to enforce a classroom routine, a new way to encourage a student, a new way to get students engaged! We are all learning and growing together." 

Kelsey Nelon

+ First Grade Teacher in Dallas, Texas

"Can we TALK about how the NUUUMBER one thing I look forward to every day is NUMBER TALK and all our calendar shanigans!!? It's the OOONE part of the day that kiiiind of looks normal.... but only kinda.... like you can only KIIIND of see it in this piccy.... Also LOOOVE that we started them when we were virtual on GoogleSlides so that we could just SLIIIIDE into the routine when the babes came back!"

Originally published Monday, Oct. 5, 2020 at 4:00 a.m. PST

Latest News