As Teacher Appreciation Week arrives, remote learning has put many parents in closer contact with teachers as they help their children with lessons and technical hurdles.

Students won’t be showering their teachers with cards, coffee cups and other trinkets this Teacher Appreciation Week, but local education officials say the COVID-19 pandemic has given it deeper meaning.


Since the virus shut down Florida schools, parents picked up part of the teaching role, coordinating Zoom calls, explaining algebra or helping young students learn how to read.


To parent-teacher groups, the pandemic has shined a light on just how much is on a teacher’s plate, sparking newfound appreciation for educators.


"I’ve had so many parents say, ‘Wow, I had no idea (teaching) was this hard,’ or they thought teachers were always just there to babysit" said Pam Korithoski, president of the Alachua County Council of PTAs. "And I tell them, ‘No, they do so much.’ Teachers should be paid millions, billions and trillions of dollars for what they do,"


To make sure their teachers feel appreciated while away from their students, local principals have gotten creative. To kick off the week, teachers from Norton Elementary School woke up Monday morning to find "thank you" signs in their front yard.


"We Miss You. #NortonCares," the signs read.


Administrators at Newberry Elementary School also choreographed and recorded a week’s worth of Tik Tok videos for teachers to watch.


The videos, shot at various spots in Gainesville and Newberry, will be sent to teachers the day before as a surprise throughout the week. On Monday, the Newberry Elementary educators were directed to the Chik-fil-A on Archer Road, where administrators surprised them by delivering free meals.


"We wanted to make sure we did something out of the box, in terms of appreciating them, given how quickly they had to flip their instruction," said Principal Vicki McAlhany.


A Newberry bakery is also offering a discounted box of the shop’s mixed dozen cupcakes this week for teachers, complete with a fondant apple design on top. Delivery is free.


"Administrators of schools have been amazing in trying to overcome and change," said Maria Rizzo, owner of Sugar Refined. "I’m sure they’ve been working overtime and maybe maybe not getting much recognition."


Though appreciated, Korithoski said a student’s thank you doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, especially considering how some parents may have recently been furloughed or lost their jobs. Given the times, she said a simple card or saying thank you is just as meaningful.


"Nothing means more than the two words: Thank you," she said.