Teacher Appreciation Week - Early Childhood Education Goes Online

May 4, 2020
Ryan Imondi

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week and we are excited to honor our 300 teachers, substitute teachers and home visitors along with a large group of in-classroom parent volunteers at Children’s Institute. With this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week marking nearly two months of safer-at-home orders, CII is extra thankful for early childhood educators who have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by quickly transitioning to virtual learning and stepping up to continue supporting kids and their families.

In early March, CII preschools serving 2,500 children across nearly 30 locations transformed overnight into virtual early childhood education hubs. Supported by CII’s IT department, teachers overhauled lesson plans and placed weekly calls to families while creating content for a weekly e-newsletter, specialized YouTube channel and learning app.

Citlali Gudino, a teacher at CII’s South Vermont Head Start, said it became apparent that the needs of families extended beyond education at home. Each family enrolled in CII’s Head Start, Early Head Start or Home Visitation program already worked multiple jobs and lived below the poverty line. As jobs in the hospitality and service industry were eliminated, parents reported losing one, two or all income sources. Many were ineligible for unemployment benefits or experienced long delays in receiving funds leaving families with zero resources for essential needs.

“We are here to help them and let them know that they are not alone,” Gudino said. “We care for these children and families and want to see them succeed.”

As teachers frequently checked-in, they became key lifelines for identifying immediate needs and connecting families with free resources in their community. CII preschool sites were converted into distribution centers where staff handed out meals while items like diapers, formula, soap and other essentials were delivered directly to families.

Due to the familiarity and trust most families had with their CII teacher or home visitor, staff were also often the first point of contact for the most at-risk families experiencing emergencies. From reporting domestic violence to not being able to pay rent, CII teachers and home visitors responded to urgent calls and provided assistance whenever possible.

Justine Lawrence, Vice President of Head Start at CII, said it is so important to appreciate teachers during this crisis and be grateful for their dedication to children and families.

“Our teachers have adjusted almost overnight to virtual learning and have done an incredible job at continuing to be teachers,” Lawrence said.

Ana Palacios, Vice President of Early Childhood Services at CII, said whatever the need, CII’s early childhood educators have responded admirably to ensure families are protected throughout this crisis.

“Now, more than ever, our Early Childhood Education services are crucial to our families,” Palacios said.

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