COLUMNS

Hilliard Schools Connection: One certainty during pandemic is that teachers mold the future

JOHN MARSCHHAUSEN
John Marschhausen

I was sitting in Mrs. Campbell's algebra class on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 1986.

I was a freshman at Glastonbury High School. In an era before cellphones or wall-mounted televisions, a large TV was on a cart in the corner of the room.

Without notice, Mrs. Campbell turned on that television as we, as a class, watched the coverage of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Mrs. Campbell, a math teacher, guided us all through a moment in history – a moment that each of us surely remembers today.

Our teachers are much more than expert professionals that teach academics; they are the guides for the journey through childhood, our teenage years and to the brink of adulthood.

From Mrs. Hinch explaining to me as a first-grader why we sit under our desks for air-raid drills to Mrs. Levine guiding us through the Iran hostage crisis, an oil embargo and an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, teachers are the narrators of our youth.

Next to family members and guardians, teachers are essential influencers for our children. If you look in your mind's eye, I will wager you can name the teachers and events that shaped your journey, too.

Now, during this COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, your school district is ready to reconnect with our students. For many children, it has been nearly six months of partial isolation. The lack of face-to-face interaction takes a toll on many young people.

Technology has created many "near-physical" opportunities for engagement. Hilliard City Schools is well-positioned to respond to this crisis with iPads, Canvas and online tools. Our teachers are busy preparing for eLearning, but our goal is to have teachers and students safely in classrooms. That's where the magic happens.

Keeping our students safe doesn't happen in isolation. Our school district partners with local-, county- and state-level experts.

This pandemic has highlighted the need for collaboration and trust. The national narrative is filled with contradictory information and bitterness. The upcoming election heightens the vitriol: People are on edge, and emotions are elevated.

As school leaders, we aim to make the best decisions for our school community. We strive to rise above the noise and focus on the facts.

I'm thankful for our partnership with the city of Hilliard and the Norwich Township Fire Department.

Chiefs Robert Fisher and Jeff Warren are elite public servants. Our first responders always have been active in keeping our students safe. Now, during this pandemic, our partnership and communication have increased out of necessity.

Michelle Crandall has been an exceptional addition to our Hilliard community as city manager. A fellow Wittenberg Tiger, Michelle and I have quickly developed a strong working relationship.

Hilliard City Council President Andy Teater brings an unparalleled knowledge of our district.

When city and school officials are working together, everyone benefits.

Franklin County Public Health has been a pleasure to work with during this pandemic.

Under the leadership of commissioner Joe Mazzola, the health department has been thrust into the public spotlight like never before.

Mazzola and his team have made themselves available since the onset of this crisis. From graduation plans to back-to-school plans, the experts at Franklin County Public Health consistently have provided feedback, recommendations and guidance. We couldn't even think about getting students back in our classrooms without this valuable partnership.

The health department also is instrumental in our food-service and cleaning procedures.

Finally, the partnership with other districts and educators in central Ohio has been fantastic.

From early in this crisis, Dr. Thomas Goodney and the staff at the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio have created collaborative opportunities for district leaders. We have partnered to develop solutions for professional development, procurement of substitute teachers and creation of the online curriculum. We have created working groups of guidance counselors, technology leaders and communication specialists.

Working together, we better support teachers and, in turn, better support students.

The 2020-21 school year will be unlike anything we've experienced in our lives. There will be many "ups and downs" as we live with this coronavirus in our midst. We will make decisions, with our community partners, with a focus on safely keeping our students in our schools.

We know that school is an essential service, and our teachers play a critical role in the development of our young people. Your district leaders are prepared with eLearning and technology, but we understand many parents want their children in our classrooms.

We will respond to each event with purpose and skills. We ask for your partnership in our journey together.

Hilliard City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen writes the Hilliard Schools Connection guest column for the ThisWeek Hilliard Northwest News.