From the Desk of Kelly Riley, MPE Executive Director
I’m staring at a blank computer screen the morning after Governor Tate Reeves announced that school buildings will be closed for the remainder of the year and I am trying to find the words for this article. I finally realize that there is really only one simple message and that is, “Thank you!” Thank you for continuing to love and miss your students during the closures. Thank you for your first thought being of how your students are going to eat. Thank you for not making excuses or slacking off, but rather, jumping into distance learning, with many of you learning the ins and outs of it as you were implementing it. None of us expected this. College classes didn’t prepare us for this. But that didn’t stop you and other educators throughout our state. Educators met the challenges head on and provided for their students.
While the spring issue of our MPE Journal traditionally spotlights our annual symposium, that obviously wasn’t possible this year. Dr. Joe Olmi of USM facilitated our “Meeting the Social and Emotional Needs of Today’s Learners” regional trainings this year and received fantastic reviews. You may face a huge challenge meeting the emotional needs of your students this fall following this pandemic. We hope Dr. Olmi’s article on pages 12 and 13 and his depth of knowledge regarding emotional supports will prove beneficial to you and your students.
Although our annual membership meeting was held via teleconference on April 4, those in attendance appreciated the encouraging words offered by MPE’s 2020-2021 President Devin Walsh of Oak Grove Primary, as well as those of Lori Brennan, our 2020-2021 Past President. New directors elected to the MPE Board of Directors are Chanda Ferguson, Dr. Tracey Gregory, Dana Knight, and Ike Sanford. Visit page 10 to learn more about them. I would like to thank Shannon Eubanks, Kevin Garrett, Cheryl Howard, and Dr. David Lowery for their commitment and service to MPE, as they rotated off our board.
As Thomas Paine shared, “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” I’ve tried to remind myself to look for the good throughout the closures and shelter-in-place orders and I have found several good things, including:
Online communities have been an invaluable means of support for educators. District lines disappeared – especially with the suspension of state tests – and educators from throughout the state shared resources, ideas, and words of encouragement via social media.
Distance learning has highlighted the number of students and educators who do not have adequate Internet access at home, which has initiated a discussion among state and industry leaders to address this issue.
Educators utilized a variety of means to reinforce their relationships with students in these uncertain times. Social media has been flooded with pictures of educators throughout our state holding up signs containing messages of “I love you,” “I miss you,” or “You can do this” for their students. Some educators paraded down their students’ roads or streets honking their horns and waving to their students to let their students know their teachers were thinking about them.
The State Board of Education’s expeditious suspension of numerous regulations and policies – especially those related to accountability, assessments, and licensure – opens the door for future review of several facets of the accountability model.
Districts found innovative ways to host graduation for their seniors. From virtual celebrations to drive-through graduations and other events, districts went the extra mile to honor these students, who missed numerous milestones this spring.
It all comes down to relationships. That is why it is so painful for the school year to end this way. As Rita Pierson shared in her infamous TEDTalk, “Every kid needs a champion,” educators are champions for their students every day, but Mississippi students have had an army of champions fighting for them during COVID-19. You have walked the walk as you have continued to teach them, to lead them, and to love them. Although it has been a different type of school year, I hope you have found the gifts it offered. Get some rest. Take care of yourselves and let’s start planning for a wonderful 2020-2021 school year with any challenges it may hold. And once again…Thank you!