(Photo by Lindsey Haukom)
The COVID-19 pandemic has required that we change the way our classrooms run, and some of these changes can feel foreign and challenging to everyone, especially our teachers. Yet amidst the webcams, trifold shields, and masks, there stands messages of hope on little paper snowflakes outside classroom doors.
Our teachers at EOS are up to the challenge, and continue on a daily basis to motivate and inspire students with their dedication, accessibility, and positive attitude. Without our teachers’ constant perseverance and kindness, the school year would not have run as successfully as it has so far. The adjustment to a hybrid learning environment has been at times difficult for everyone, students and teachers alike, but our teachers’ courage in taking on this year has made the challenge possible.
The teachers’ hard work was not unnoticed, and senior Cat Grenier founded the Sunshine Club in the fall of 2020 to show appreciation for our teachers: “I started the Sunshine Club because I wanted to support our teachers during this unusual year. Also, since I am fully virtual this year, I wanted to create a way for myself and other students to still be in touch and have an impact on the school community!” Cat, advisors Ms. Ruegg and Ms. Hussong and the students who are a part of the club have made a positive impact on the EOS Community. Every month, the Sunshine Club promotes Sunshine Week, which consists of a “Welcome” on Monday, the next installment of “Sunshine Monthly” on Wednesday, and the deliverance of personalized gifts on Friday.
The “Welcome” may include welcome signs of teacher appreciation outside the school building or a video of students wishing their teachers a Happy Sunshine Week. The “Sunshine Monthly,” primarily produced by Cat Grenier and Junior Milo Alder, is a publication for teachers that includes song and movie recommendations, student-made fun tutorial videos, fragments of positive EOS news, and encouraging messages. Each month, two departments are featured by the Gift Committee, and the students acquire personalized gifts and messages for each teacher in those departments. Two new departments are chosen each month, so by the end of the year, every EOS teacher will have received a personalized gift from the Sunshine Club.
Every other month, the Sunshine Club brightens the entire school with their positive decorations that adorn the walls of EOS. Inspiring messages of thanks and appreciation are written on little sticky notes or paper snowflakes and put outside the classroom and office doors of EOS staff members.
The EOS community has been positively receptive and supportive of the monthly activities, and many teachers appreciate the thoughtfulness and kindness shown by the Sunshine Club. Regan Rowley, English 12 teacher at EOS, said that “the Sunshine Club has added such an element of happiness to a very challenging year. I love the monthly updates and all the cheer they have provided EO this year. Thank you, Sunshine Club!”
All Sunshine Club members are gratified to hear of their impact on the school community and happy that their kindness is contagious. Advisor Ashley Ruegg said that “the most impressive thing about the Sunshine Club is that it’s entirely student run. The idea for the club came from the students and they do all the work. I am so impressed with them and I love being a part of such a great club!”
This school year has certainly been a challenge, but everyone, teachers and students alike, have been putting their best efforts into making this experience more enjoyable for everyone. What if each action that brings a smile to someone’s face then inspires another kind action, and a chain effect of goodwill ensues? Our EOS teachers and staff and the Sunshine Club have certainly been abiding by this principle, and our school community has experienced a growth in kindness and gratitude despite the obstacles faced this year. Cat herself said that “the sunshine club has had a positive impact this year despite the small scale that we’re working on. Receiving emails and thank yous from teachers is the most rewarding thing for me! Even if only one teacher smiled from what we do in the Sunshine Club, I would feel accomplished.”
Editor’s Note: This story was written for the Panther Press last spring.