Since February, I have helped my community by substitute teaching within the North Kingstown School Department.  I have substituted in kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school classes and one thing has become abundantly clear to me – our teachers deserve our thanks, gratitude and respect every day!

The pandemic has affected our children in numerous detrimental ways and the past two years have left them reeling from uncertainty, lost learning and socialization time, anxiety and fear.

Over my time substitute teaching, I have witnessed teachers be educators, protectors, nurses, counselors, therapists, and even providers of basic essentials to their more vulnerable students.  I have watched teachers go above and beyond, purchasing their own student supplies, snacks and meals for kids who can’t afford them, warm clothing for students who are underdressed on cold days and so many other acts of selflessness and kindness that too often go unnoticed each and every day.

I have also seen and experienced first-hand the very difficult job teachers are now facing when confronting and mitigating the negative impacts COVID-19 has had on our children.  Mental health crises, frequent outbursts, anxiety, depression and the uncertainty of trying to get back to normal are plaguing our children on a daily basis and our teachers are on the front line, doing everything in their power to help our kids adjust and adapt to the changes our world has experienced over the past two years.

As we approach Teacher Appreciation Week, held the week of May 2 through May 6, please join me by thanking the teachers in your lives.  Let them know how grateful you are for their dedication to our children’s educations and well-being and tell them how much you appreciate all that have done, especially when considering the challenges, disruptions and distractions that have invaded our educational system since the pandemic began.

Unlike some professions, it is impossible for teachers to leave their work at school when their day ends.  At their homes, they bring with them the joys and the frustrations that they experience daily, from the satisfaction of a student doing well to the tragedy of a student being unable to escape a toxic home life.  While teaching is extremely rewarding, it is also a profession that will break your heart on a regular basis, making the job our teachers do even more worthy of our gratitude.

Teachers truly are selfless public servants and during this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week (and every day) please be sure to let them know how valued they are in the community and thank them for a job well done.  

Rep. Julie A. Casimiro, a Democrat, represents District 31 in North Kingstown and Exeter.

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