Despite the gloomy weather, it was all smiles in the parking lot of Urbana Elementary School Wednesday afternoon as a line of cars paraded to honor kindergarten teacher Shannon Vetter.
Vetter stood on the sidewalk for almost two hours as her students passed by in cars, waving, showing off posters they had made and chatting with their teacher whom many haven’t seen in person for almost two months.
“It was wonderful. It was very overwhelming for me to process, but I’m so appreciative that they organized it,” Vetter said.
Wednesday’s parade was just one way Frederick County educators are being recognized for Teacher Appreciation Week, which is being celebrated nationally through Friday.
Melissa Dirks, president of the Frederick County Teachers Association, said it’s important this year more than ever to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week.
“They have had to adapt, modify and learn how to deliver instruction in a whole new way with very little lead time,” Dirks said. “But they did what they always do – they jumped right in and did what needed to be done to support their students.”
Vetter said she kept apologizing to each family for the long wait, but added that no one seemed to care.
“I think they understood that I couldn’t just wave, you know, everyone wanted to talk,” Vetter said.
Parents Sherry Mineer and Sangeeta Gupta organized the parade. They both have children in Vetter’s class.
Mineer said they wanted to do something that would honor Vetter but also bring everyone together in a safe way. After seeing the amount of birthday car parades taking place amid the pandemic, she said they knew a car parade of their own would be the right fit.
It was also a way to allow students to see each other and lift everyone’s spirits Mineer said.
“Things aren’t normal and any sense of normalcy like seeing their teacher or classmates, I feel like it brings them back,” Mineer said. “I feel like these little things just helps keep everybody looking forward.”
Vetter, who has taught at Urbana Elementary for six years, said she misses her students tremendously and has found it challenging to not be with them every day.
“It’s super weird to be talking to them but staring at my computer ... you feel the isolation for sure,” Vetter said. “Especially when you see a kid who’s maybe lost their tooth – I would have seen that the next day but now they’re like, yeah, I lost it four weeks ago.”
Vetter has found creative ways to still see her students, in some sense even if just through her screen.
Recently, Vetter got approval for her students to begin recording video responses to their “morning question” and sending it back to her.
At first, receiving the video messages was overwhelming after not seeing or hearing her students for over a month.
“I just lost it. I was like, oh, my gosh, I forgot what your voice sounds like or you lost two teeth and you got a haircut,” Vetter said.
Vetter said she soon realized that although nothing will beat being in a classroom, having the time to watch and respond to her students’ video messages has been beneficial.
“I’m learning more about the kids than I normally would because when I ask a question [in class] in the morning I can’t always have all 26 [students] answer,” she said.
Gupta said Vetter has been a “rock of support” for both students and parents.
“For parents, I think we’ve realized just how big of a role teachers play...somehow they’re able to give attention to each child [in class] and build a nurturing environment,” Gupta said. “I think school teachers deserve every ounce of credit that we can give them.”
Vetter said the parade is one of the best displays of appreciation she’s ever received.
She said she felt a bit like a Disney character while standing on the sidewalk as cars of excited students made the rounds.
“I’m freezing and I’m still shivering, but I’m on a high right now,” she said.