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By Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Because of You, We Are Stronger Together

“Nothing can take the place of you and your role in a young person’s education, and it is impossible to overstate the impact you have on our state’s 6 million students.”

We are living through one of the greatest challenges most of us will ever experience in our lifetimes. This global pandemic, seemingly overnight, turned our world upside down. You, our teachers, were thrust into the daily stress and uncertainty of navigating rapidly changing demands and circumstances, pulling even longer hours to learn new skills, worrying for your students, and scrambling to check on their welfare — all while striving to care for yourself and your loved ones.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond

On behalf of all Californians, I commend your daily resiliency and what all of you have accomplished to keep learning alive for students while your neighborhood school, a place of community and connection, closed its doors and turned off the lights. I am witnessing hardworking educators continue to bravely rise to this moment. All of us at the California Department of Education (CDE) see you, are inspired by you, and thank you for your courage and dedication as we work together to support our students when they have needed us the most.

Throughout it all, we have been leading honest and earnest conversations and working tirelessly to make sure that our students and educators have the resources and support they need to thrive — now, and in the difficult months ahead.

Since March, CDE has hosted more than 30 webinars focusing on the following subject matter areas: distance learning, special education, mental health, English learners, deaf and blind student and educator supports, and career technical education. Understanding that students, families and educators have experienced significant stress during this transition, our team has also coordinated virtual support circles for participants to share their experiences and connect with one another in an emotionally supportive environment.

We also have and will continue to advocate to make sure you have the resources and measures in place necessary to protect educators and students in the classroom. Over the summer, we worked to ensure schools received access to the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) that was distributed in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Department of General Services — including no-touch thermometers for every school and child care facility, face shields for every teacher and child care provider, and more than 14 million cloth face coverings for staff and students. As reflected in our June guidance document for the safe reopening of schools, we have said from the beginning that we believe we can only resume in-person learning when we know it is absolutely safe to do so.

In addition to physical health, our preparations to resume learning must also prioritize social-emotional and mental health supports for all. There is no question that students and teachers alike have endured and continue to deal with the intense emotional distress exacerbated by this pandemic. Many have experienced disconnection and depression. There is no playbook for the circumstances we are living in, but I am committed to securing the supports you and our students need to address the trauma experienced during this pandemic. We can’t forget that the health and well-­being of our educators is essential for student success.

There is nothing that can take the place of you and your role in a young person’s education, and it is impossible to overstate the impact you have on our state’s 6 million students. What you accomplish every day inspires us all. Thank you for your strength, sacrifice, resourcefulness, and deep commitment to our students and communities across California. Together, we will move forward stronger and more resilient than before.