All Indiana teachers collectively won the 2021 Teacher of the Year in recognition of the challenges each face during the pandemic, the state education department said Tuesday.
For more than 60 years the Indiana Department of Education picked a single educator to recognize as teacher of the year. Those who won, showed excellence in the classroom and went above and beyond to help their students.
State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick says all teachers have done that and more in response to school building closures and the pandemic.
"We had teachers going beyond the call of duty to help with food, to have parades. They were calling students every day, taking care of social emotional needs," McCormick said Tuesday during a weekly webinar for school leaders. "It was way beyond the academic piece. I know from hearing from a lot of teachers you are spent. I know it was very taxing on a lot of you."
Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered all schools closed for two months on March 19. Soon after, school buildings were ordered closed for the 2019-20 school year.
"There is not there are not enough thank yous, there is not enough respect to go around," McCormick said of how teachers responded. "I cannot say enough about our teachers at this point. We know we didn't get it perfect. We know we have room for improvement."
McCormick says teachers and their administrators just didn't have enough time to prepare, or professional development, to quickly pivot to remote learning before the buildings were vacated.
Some teachers posted their appreciation with a little humor on social media.
Jason Burton, a special education teacher at Columbus North High School in Edinburgh joked he will update his resume with Indiana Teacher of the Year "without year or explanation."
"Really though, tough times and teachers made the best of it," he tweeted. "Respect to all educators out there who made this online format work."
"Incredibly proud and honored to announce that I have been awarded Indiana’s Teacher of the Year!," tweeted John Ashworth, teacher and head basketball coach at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis. "I want to thank everybody who has helped me along the way!"
Traditionally, school districts nominate their top teacher to the state level. The statewide winner, takes part in programs and represents Indiana educators and advances to the national competition.
Teachers nominated this year will be considered again for next year’s honor.