Dear Class of 2021,

It’s commencement time and you will be taking your walk across stages to receive your diploma. There will be speeches by some of your classmates ranging from those first days of elementary school to your hopes and dreams for the future. There will be people to thank. Whether it’s parents, siblings, relatives, neighbors, friends or teachers, many have helped you on your journey.

I’d like you to give an extra special thank you to one of those groups – the teachers. I’ll also include principals and administrators here too, because they began their careers in the classroom.

Teachers want to help their students succeed. They really do. But I’m pretty sure there isn’t anything in the “How to Teach” manual about doing it during a worldwide pandemic. And yet, they did it anyway.

Good teachers look to give their students more responsibility, more of a say in their own learning. I am guessing there were days you worked through pandemic-related issues together.

Maybe it was last spring when schools were shuttered the last two and a half months of the year. It might have been during a virtual class or Zoom meeting. But your teachers adjusted, trying their darndest to give you the material and information you needed to remain on track.

It might have been last fall, when early on, positive cases of COVID-19 were quarantining large groups of students and teachers, disrupting the in-person start of the school year.

Many of your coaches and directors didn’t get to help you perform in sports and fine arts last spring. But that didn’t mean they forgot about you. I bet lots of you heard from them via email or a Zoom meeting, encouraging you to return to competitions and performances when it was safe to do so.

And when those missed opportunities returned in the fall, your teachers and coaches took extra mitigation efforts to keep you on the field or on the stage.

During the year, they taught most of you in person and some of you virtually. And as guidelines from the Center for Disease Control or the Iowa Department of Public Health changed, your teachers adapted what they needed to do to help you succeed.

And when those guidelines changed, it was up to administrators to devise a workable plan for teachers to implement. Often, they had to do that after wading through dozens of emails from people who had a better idea of what to do and how to do it because someone sent them something on Facebook about mask-wearing or quarantining or the Constitution.

Sometimes those guidelines seemed to come without warning, warranting teachers to change the makeup of their lessons or activities pretty quickly. They did it because it was what was best for your education.

At the start of this pandemic (which would have been during your junior year of high school), the buzzword everyone was throwing around was grace. We were all going to remember that folks were just doing the best they could and we all needed to treat them with grace.

This year, your teachers brought grace in spades and they brought it every day.

So, as you receive your diploma and turn your tassel, give an extra nod to a teacher or administrator who helped you during the year. They never left you and always believed in you.

Now go out and do great things.

Sincerely — A former teacher.