Teachers. In so many ways they represent who we are as a humanity. Sometimes that’s not the best. We all fall short on some days. But when we have an opportunity to meet a teacher who is representing all the good that is possible – genuinely, consistently good – that’s something you want to tell everyone about.

I’ve been privileged enough to meet two of the best. Ms. Jennifer Smith and Ms. Uli Schneider support their third grade students at Gladstone Elementary in a whole host of different ways. During the time of online learning when students and adults alike were overwhelmed from staring at a screen, Ms. Schneider would provide a moment of belly laughter for all by showcasing her maybe-less-than-coordinated dance moves for her students. When students and staff returned to the buildings facing uncertainty and never ending changes, Ms. Smith served as a resilient reminder to all that the waves would eventually feel less overwhelming. And through it all, these two educators, and their cohorts Adrienne Albert and Deborah Ferguson, kept their focus on keeping kids healthy, educated, and in good spirits in the best ways they could.

Which leads us to Winter of 2021. With the directive that teachers should decorate their doors during the hustle and bustle of end of quarter to-do lists before winter break, Ms. Schneider and Ms. Smith cultivated an opportunity and put into plan that is nothing short of incredible. Their students were given pieces of cloth on which they could decorate and showcase any holiday they liked to celebrate. One student chose St. Patrick’s Day, another Lunar New Year, yet another Diwali. Then Ms. Smith set about with her sewing machine and crafted a literal and figurative quilt of art, culture, joy, and celebration. The result is a stunning tapestry. An artifact that serves as a momentary reminder that we gain more when we celebrate each other while also providing an heirloom of all the good things these third grade students and their school represent in this moment.

Thank you, third grade educators. You’re representing humanity well and we’re thankful to you for doing so.

Jennifer Mason, KCPS Staff