In 2020, teachers had to think fast and make some huge adjustments to keep their students engaged.
From dealing with the struggles of virtual learning to finding unique ways to get kids to maintain social distancing and wash their hands, teachers across the country found themselves taking on lots of new roles this year.
Thankfully (and unsurprisingly) we saw teachers do what teachers do best: They rose to the occasion and thought of incredible ways to keep their students motivated.
Whether they showed up on Zoom every day with a welcoming smile or gave up their time to help others cope with the pandemic, we're grateful for our teachers.
Here are six teachers who made us smile this year.
1. Shauna Woods
As concerns grew over the spread of coronavirus, third grade teacher Shauna Woods was struck with an idea for a creative way to get her students to be more diligent about hand washing.
"I began to think of something that I could put on their hands that they would have to wash off," Woods, who teaches at Hallsville Public School in Hallsville, Missouri, told TODAY Parents. "On a Monday morning, I saw my 'Mrs. Woods' stamp sitting there and I told my students to wash their hands in the classroom sink and then see Mrs. Woods for a stamp."
In a viral Facebook post, Woods shared her idea: Giving each student who washed that stamp off by the end of the school day a prize.
2. Joe Wicks
Kids may have been cooped up in their houses due to the spread of coronavirus, but one online fitness coach in the United Kingdom tried to help them get moving through a creative series of physical education classes.
In his "P.E. with Joe" videos posted every morning on YouTube, Joe Wicks — a father of two who goes by The Body Coach on social media — led kids through 30 minutes of jumping jacks, mountain climbers and other sweat-inducing moves.
3. Rebecca Talaia
When one teacher heard that her local hospital needed wipes, her mind immediately went to the disinfectant wipes sitting in her currently empty classroom. Then, she organized a national drive to get unused school supplies into hospitals that needed them.
"Amongst all this sadness and angst, there is still so much joy," Talaia told TODAY Parents at the time. "Americans need to do as much as we can to help get needed supplies into the hospitals. We need to protect our health care workers because without them, we will perish."
4. Annette Fernandez
When Annette Fernandez realized her third grade classroom wasn’t close to a bathroom or equipped for hand washing to slow the spread of COVID-19, she wanted to do something about it. She approached her school's principal to ask whether there was any money available for hand-washing stations. There wasn’t.
So, with her principal’s blessing, she started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money. And, in just two hours, she exceeded the $1,500 that she needed to provide her classroom with a sink.
5. Quentin J. Lee
A high school principal’s parody video about the stresses of school during the COVID-19 pandemic really was a mood. Quentin J. Lee’s take on “Can’t Touch This” embodied all the frustrating realties of back to school 2020 with the perfect amount of humor partnered with MC Hammer’s catchy song.
Lee told TODAY's Hoda Kotb and Craig Melvin that he enjoys "just coming up with fun innovative ways to get the message across and have a little bit of fun with the students and let them know that creativity never stops."
6. Mackenzie Adams
Getting kids excited about virtual learning wasn't exactly easy, but Mackenzie Adams sure made it look effortless.
The kindergarten teacher went viral after she posted a TikTok video of herself energetically interacting with her students during the remote school day.
The 24-year-old's animated approach to virtual learning won the hearts of social media users; the video had millions of views and likes, and Adams called in to the 3rd hour of TODAY to discuss her contagious teaching skills.
"I feed right off of them," she said. "Seeing their smiles and their laughter, it makes me just want to put more of a show on for them, make sure that they're having fun and that they're engaging and learning."
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