Last week’s Teacher Appreciation Week is perhaps the strangest in the careers of most Catholic teachers, but social distancing and a sudden halt on in-classroom learning didn’t stop students from saying “thank you” to the teachers they love.

Since school doors across the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are closed for the remainder of the school year, teachers opened the windows of Zoom, Google Classroom and other online learning platforms to enhance flexible instruction days.

Examples of their creativity, resourcefulness and care for students in response to this challenge were seen throughout the archdiocese.

Archbishop John Carroll High School Spanish teacher Audrey Bourgeois created a virtual escape room to help her students practice spelling and vocabulary. Suzette Moyer, a Kindergarten teacher from St. Mary Catholic School in Schwenksville, personally visited her students (with respect to social-distancing) to check in, ask if they needed anything and deliver additional work and activities.

With senior graduation ceremonies on hold, teachers went above and beyond to make sure the class of 2020 felt appreciated. Teachers, faculty and administrators from Lansdale Catholic High School in Lansdale, Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote and Msgr. Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School in Drexill Hill surprised senior students with lawn signs and balloons to celebrate their graduation.

Perhaps what is most telling is that teachers did this during their own Teacher Appreciation Week.

In a video documenting the festivities for Lansdale Catholic seniors, a faculty member got emotional recalling the words of a homily: “The priest said that the opposite of thankfulness is not necessarily being ungrateful but forgetting. And we want to make sure these seniors know we don’t forget how important they are.”

(Watch a video of Lansdale Catholic High School’s festivities here.)

As is evident in the Catholic faith, when one receives so much love, one cannot help but pour it back out to others. That’s exactly what students did during this year’s teacher appreciation week.

Families from Holy Trinity School, Morrisville organized a drive-thru parade for teachers in the school parking lot with the help of the Knights of Columbus. Families decorated their cars with streamers and thank you signs as music blasted through the air.

Teachers drove along the line of cars to enthusiastic cheers and received Dunkin’ gift cards, balloons and other goodies.

Holy Trinity Kindergarten teacher Jennifer Ansaldo enjoyed a special surprise from her students, who filmed a social-distancing, Disney-themed music video. Students dressed up in costumes and sang “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from the movie “Toy Story.” See the video below and try not to melt from the adorableness:

https://www.facebook.com/HolyTrinityMorrisville/videos/249330846426378/

Fifth graders from St. Mark School, Bristol surprised teacher Alexis Rodriguez with a drive-by parade. Flowers, cards, signs, cookies and other gifts were handed out of car windows, as students and their guardians honked horns and shouted words of thanks.

Rodriguez commented on Facebook, “I’m absolutely speechless! This was the best surprise ever! I feel so loved and appreciated! I miss my class so much and now 1,000 times more after getting to see them drive by today! They are the best and I’m so blessed to be their teacher!”

First grade teacher Kelly Ciminera from Sacred Heart School, Havertown reacts with pure joy as her students surprised her with a teacher appreciation parade. (Courtesy of Sacred Heart School)

First grade teacher Kelly Ciminera from Sacred Heart School, Havertown received a similar surprise appreciation parade from her students.

Perhaps the first graders took a cue from the school’s eighth graders, who threw a surprise baby shower for their teacher via Zoom. Eighth grade teacher Theresa Geesey and her husband are expecting their first baby in June, and each student gifted their favorite picture book for Baby Geesey.

In the spirit of surprises, Carroll High School staff and administrators donned masks and surprised 45 teachers at their homes with balloons and thank-you signs.

“Our educators have gone above and beyond their job over the past several weeks to ensure that their students continue to receive an exceptional education,” said a Carroll High School Facebook post with pictures from the event.

Perhaps Father Christopher Walsh best summed up the essence of archdiocesan teachers. The pastor of St. Raymond of Penafort Parish in Philadelphia remembered his elementary school teachers by name in a daily reflection video.

He said they were were “a tremendous gift to me at different points in my life … who not just educated me in the academic subject, but cared about me as a person.”

Father Michael Speziale joins faculty and administrators from Archbishop John Carroll High School to surprise 45 teachers with thank-you signs and presents for Teacher Appreciation Week. (Courtesy of Archbishop John Carroll High School)