Sacajawea Elementary School first-grade teacher Debbie Hartman’s class had an unexpected interruption recently – the kind of interruption that can make a teacher’s day.
Dave Crum, executive director of the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation, was there to present her a Gold Star, and to let her know that her hard work mattered.
“Gold Stars Awards are a recognition by families or community members to individual teachers or school staff members to thank them for their work. We receive a lot of acknowledgements this time of year,” Crum described.
Hartman’s Gold Star came from the Pancich family, which wrote to her: “We do appreciate how you have navigated this unknown time with kindness and grace. Even in these uncertain times, Emmerson continues to love to come to school and love learning. We appreciate you more than you know!”
Sacajawea Principal Rae Smith said teachers are always surprised and grateful to receive Gold Stars. “Just knowing that parents will take that extra step to say thank you means so much,” she said. “Teachers often break out into tears, they’re so touched.”
Because Gold Stars are handed out in front of students, they get to see and hear that parents think their teacher is special. “It’s a great way to model appreciation and kindness to students,” Rae said.
Anyone can give a Gold Star Award by donating any amount in the name of a teacher or school staff member they appreciate. More information is available on the Foundation’s web site at https://gfpsfoundation.org/gold-star-recognition-form/
Usually funds raised by the Gold Star program are directed to the Foundation’s Discovery Grants for teachers and their classrooms. But this year is different.
“There is so much stress with the pandemic. Teachers are working harder, longer and differently,” said Crum. “So this school year the Gold Star funds generated will go directly to teacher appreciation programs and activities.”
Principal Smith acknowledged that the pandemic is a huge stressor for teachers and families. “It’s extremely challenging, especially when students are out for quarantine,” she said. “Teachers spend extra time preparing packets, reaching out to student and parents, trying to get work back, and keeping up with their regular classroom work.”
Even with the extra effort, students at home aren’t always learning the material and need special attention when they return to the classroom. “All of this has an emotional impact on staff,” Rae said.
Last year the Foundation presented 106 Gold Star Awards. Not only do the recipients receive the honor at their school, their names also appear in the Foundation’s annual Excellence in Education publication and may be featured on the Foundation’s Facebook page or other social media.
Gold Star Awards are presented year-round.