World Teachers’ Day: Tillman Scholars in Education Reflect on an Unprecedented Year

Blog | 10/05/2021

October 5th is World Teachers’ Day. This year, our nation’s teachers faced unprecedented challenges, navigating uncertainty and constant change. While the global pandemic continues to apply layers of complexity to classrooms in person and virtually, we want to thank our educators for their commitment and passion to shaping our future leaders.

To celebrate our remarkable teachers in the Tillman Scholar community, we asked a simple, yet powerful, question: As we navigate a global pandemic, what inspires you as an educator?

“My district was able to run a full summer football camp in the summer of 2020 and navigated a short 6 game season after seeing all of our spring sports canceled while we were placed on quarantine because of the COVID outbreak. The outlet athletics provided to the kids was great support both physically and emotionally, even without the benefit of having fans at most of our football games. Throughout all that has happened since the beginning of the pandemic, our players and especially last year’s seniors, inspired me to do my best and “earn my whistle,” every day.” – Mike Pritts, 2016 Tillman Scholar


“I’m inspired by the resilience and adaptability I’ve seen in everyone – teachers, faculty, students, administrators, families, EVERYONE! Since March 2020, educators have had to pivot again and again. The grace, curiosity, innovation, compassion, and creativity I’ve witnessed has been truly inspiring in our field this past year and a half.” – Keely Rimoldi, 2009 Tillman Scholar


“When we switched for virtual education last year, I felt inspired to be a source of normalcy for my students. The sudden shutdowns and quarantine had a huge impact on families; especially our younger students. Even now as we have transitioned from virtual learning to in-person, I feel inspired to teach our students the importance of a shared social responsibility. It is very difficult for a five-year-old student to keep a face mask on and to be mindful of social distancing for several hours a day, but I try to use this as an opportunity to teach my students the importance of making small sacrifices to keep our community healthy and safe.” – Trish Slugantz, 2011 Tillman Scholar

“Going into another school year of ‘pandemic pedagogy,’ it would be easy to fall back on the comfortable talking points. I would love to talk about how students and teachers are all eagerly anticipating the days of ‘before.’ I would love to talk about the long days of Zoom lessons, of simultaneously teaching students online and in-person as a distant memory. I would love to talk about how much we all can’t wait to return to ‘normal.’ But I can’t. The fact is that ‘normal’ in our schools often means that large demographics of students are left out of the conversation; it means that we are comfortable in looking at students as data-points rather than as young people with anxieties and dreams of their own.

As an educator who believes endlessly in the dreams and opportunities of my students, I am inspired by the ways each student brings their authentic self into my classroom; I am inspired by the way these young people remain invested in the promise of more, of better; I am inspired by the way they know that although they might not be able to sit under the shade of the tree they’ve planted, they still remain excited for those who eventually will.” –Landon Wilson, 2017 Tillman Scholar