Heroes All: Michigan Church Honors Teachers, Students, and Parents
By Mark Butzow
When they decided to do a teacher appreciation day back in January, the pastors and staff at First Church didn’t know the COVID-19 pandemic would turn the world upside down in 2020. In fact, the original thought at that retreat was to acknowledge teachers and staff at the preschool that First Church of God operates in St. Joseph, Michigan. But that all changed during the summer.
The pandemic disrupted in-person schooling this spring. With coronavirus cases continuing to occur as schools resumed this fall, there were still fears to fight and adjustments to make for parents, pupils, teachers, and all who work in schools. As a result, the church’s plans for a moment of appreciation evolved into a dedication of teachers.
“Educating is such a high calling. This year has brought a whole new appreciation of how much teachers do,” said Kate Ott, communications director for First Church, which also holds services in nearby Stevensville and Benton Heights. “The context changed into honoring all teachers, not just those at the preschool,” Ott said. “I was surprised at how meaningful many of them found that to be.”
The church shared its plans ahead of time through its social media platforms, hoping all involved in teaching would be able to attend, either virtually or in person. The moment of appreciation came August 23, with the date chosen as an intentional nod to college students about to leave for campuses. In all three church locations, pastors asked anyone involved in education to stand—including teachers, administrators, custodians and office staff—but also the many parents suddenly thrust into helping youngsters do schooling online from home and parents who homeschool.
In the St. Joseph auditorium, the director of First Church Preschool joined children and families pastor Bill Shepard as he offered an emotional prayer, an opportunity to cast hope and faith over fear. “Everyone needed that benediction,” Ott said. “Everyone who is a parent needed that great reminder in this season where nothing is normal. It is a great reminder for our students, too. When our kids see hard things, they can know God is with them and for them.”
Watch the dedication video at https://share.icloud.com/photos/02IxFTwW5xl-NL6Yn57WXnxzA#Home
“We have a family with a very high-risk child. This year, for the first time, that mom is becoming a homeschool mom. To see her get honored alongside these longtime, veteran teachers, it sent a message of dignity: We see you, you’re known, you’re loved.”
Ott continued, “I think whether it’s an ice cream day in the middle of summer or a moment like this where we’re honoring and dedicating our teachers, our goal is to speak love. It says God loves you even in your hardest days.”
Mark Butzow operates a freelance writing and editing service, Mark My Words Ink, and is a former journalism instructor, broadcast journalist, newspaper reporter, and copy editor. He lives in Madison County, Indiana, with his wife, an elementary school teacher in Anderson.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.