Picture of a smiling woman.

Laura Peavley

Remember sitting in your undergraduate education classes, being bombarded with hypothetical situations to play out in your mind? That was scary. There were lots of things that made us think, “Is that really going to happen?” We had no idea what we were in for.

This past year has challenged us beyond anything we could have imagined or prepared for. Yet, we did it. YOU did it.

Quite possibly, this was the most challenging year of your career. You overcame every obstacle that was in the way. If there’s one thing that teaching has taught us, it is that we can try to prepare as best as possible, but it will never go as planned.

Within a week, all paper copies of lesson ideas neatly sorted in the filing cabinet suddenly became useless. You couldn’t meet with coworkers to plan the curriculum. Your schedules and workday expectations changed. Critical information needed to be clearly communicated to families solely via email. You found out the hard way about slow internet speeds and inadequate computer processors.

Yet, one class period at a time, you showed how resilient you are. You have made it safe for schools to open again. But with all of the last-minute changes and 10 p.m. emails, one thing remained – your fervent passion for your students.

Whether you were teaching virtually or in person, you made an impact on the students on your roster every time they interacted with you. You encouraged them when they hadn’t left their house in months. You inspired them with your optimism when it felt like there was no end in sight to this pandemic. They were able to laugh through the hard times because of the community you built in your class.

Students will always remember this year and you were the one to walk with them through every hardship, building a bond in a unique and powerful way. Regardless of what was going on outside of Google Meet or Zoom calls, you always put on a brave, confident face for your students. They saw stability and safety in you, even in the middle of a pandemic. It was this presence that made the biggest impact on your students.

As you finish out this year, cherish the sweet, fleeting moments you have and let your students know how proud of them you are. I once had a student tell me that the most important characteristic a teacher can have is love. Never underestimate the life-changing power of expressing genuine, intentional love to your students.

Whether this was your first year teaching or your 25th, you taught this year for a reason. Take time to reflect on just how far you have come in these past 14 months. Your growth is truly remarkable. Give yourself credit for how you’ve been able to adapt your instruction to teach your curriculum and inspire students despite all of the hindrances.

Through all of the tears, questions and frustrations, you learned more about yourself and were forced outside of your comfort zone and challenged to grow in unimaginable ways. Let this year encourage you into realizing your true potential and build off of the momentum you have. Keep improving, keep collaborating, and keep shining your light!

Congratulations, teachers! I am so proud of you!

Laura Peavley, an 8th-grade math teacher at Westport Middle School (Jefferson County), is the 2021 Kentucky Middle School Teacher of the Year. She is a graduate of Miami University and earned her master’s degree from Georgetown College. Peavley is a National Board Certified Teacher and truly believes she has the best job in the world.