In the midst of this pandemic, America continues to be in crisis mode as to the feasibility of reopening some of our nation’s schools safely without putting our children and teachers at risk. A current debate involves online teaching versus in-school learning, and it’s made me reminisce about my own school days and how my teachers helped me overcome the struggles and hardships that I faced during my childhood.

I have come to the realization that the memories I cherish most are the memories of the teachers who taught me the importance of believing in myself. My teachers were my mentors, and they provided me with the support I needed to achieve, and often surpass, my goals.

I’ll always remember that during school hours, I had a sense of peace and belonging that I knew would fade as soon as the 3 o’clock dismissal bell rang.

The teachers in my childhood were very special people that will always take center stage in my memories. I clearly remember a very wise woman that I was fortunate to have as my fifth grade teacher. She was highly educated and extremely humble. She made each of her students feel special, and she would always praise a student when they completed a difficult assignment.

She had the uncanny ability to quickly help each of her students overcome their weaknesses. Several of her pupils, myself included, had a severe case of low self-esteem, and she always encouraged us to believe in ourselves and never doubt our ability to excel.

When the school year ended, she wrote notes to each student, thanking us for attending her class and wishing each of us success in the coming school year. She was aware of the details of my home life and, in my note, she told me that I must “never let my surroundings define me ... you can do better.”

Her words will stay with me for the rest of my life.

On the last day of school, as we were all saying our farewells, she handed me a dictionary with a note encouraging me to look up the meaning of at least one word a day. She told me that I was her most inquisitive student and that she knew that I would enjoy the dictionary. The knowledge that I gained from her gift helped me throughout my life.

I really believe that, even during the current health crisis, we must face the harsh reality that children do need and do benefit from the stability of attending school. I believe that in-school learning enables each student to more readily absorb the subject matter being taught, and nothing can ever replace the in-person exchange of knowledge between teacher and student.

All children deserve a good education, and I’m not a fan of online learning because I know that there are children living in homes that are disruptive and not conducive for learning.

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We must also consider the fact that online classes may not be an option for large families who cannot afford all the equipment necessary for each child.

I fail to understand how we are able to send men to the moon and yet have trouble finding solutions to safely educate children in the school environment.

The most valuable gift we can give our children is a good education.

The author lives in East Lampeter Township.

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