We are all in this together

JSSP Guest Column
Courtesy image / Internet Reputation —

By Sara Medalen | Minot

Heather Tomlin-Rohr | Jamestown

Annette Hovey | New Rockford

The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting all of us with unforeseen challenges. As members of the North Dakota State Teacher of the Year Chapter, we feel compelled to share our perspectives. Guided by love for our students and pride in the teaching profession, we are focusing on a statement made by Sara Medalen, the 2020 State Teacher of the Year, who was interviewed in a recent news story. While handing out lunches to students in Minot, Medalen said, “We really are all in this together.” We know it is true. We will get through this challenging time… together.


As our classrooms suddenly are without walls, educators are innovating at a speed unseen in most industries. We feel pressure to “do it right” and to make the transition to distance learning as seamless as possible. We are aware that every family situation is unique, and every student has individual interests, strengths and struggles. We understand that students and parents may be apprehensive about how this will work. Our students are on a journey of learning, and it is our life’s work to guide them. For us, it’s heartbreaking to have limited contact with students when our classrooms are empty. We know the human connections in our classrooms are crucial to a well-rounded education, and even with so many cancellations disrupting our days, those connections will not be canceled. Academics and positive relationships will continue as educators seek innovative strategies to maintain both.

It isn’t just teachers who are looking for ways to support our students. We are heartened by the ways that food service personnel, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, custodians, counselors and administrators across the state are working to ensure that students will continue to learn and maintain classroom relationships, even when the buildings are not accessible. The greatness of many individuals shines through. We appreciate the leadership at the state and local levels that encourage exploring all ideas to meet the needs of students and staff across North Dakota. A powerful example of how the guidance of leaders enhances the hard work of individuals can be seen in the way thousands of meals are delivered to students in our cities and rural areas each day.

Our community agencies and local businesses have also come together to support our students and their families. During this time of so many unknowns, it is reassuring to have community members stepping up to provide security and opportunities. Beyond the local resources, numerous state and national educational companies are waiving fees to provide resources to enhance distance learning for teachers, students, and families.

Whether you are a teacher providing distance learning, a parent providing guidance at home or a student dealing with so many uncertainties and changes, it is going to be OK! If we all give our very best effort, we trust it will be enough to learn amazing things, to do good for our community, and to be even stronger than we were before because we are all in this together, and together we can do great things!

Medalen is the 2020 North Dakota Teacher of the Year. Tomlin-Rohr and Hovey are members of the North Dakota Teacher of the Year membership chapter. Twenty other members of the chapter also signed on to this column.

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