by Brian Lamar, Assignment Editor

Although it feels as if we are starting to pull out of a death-defying nose dive, we still are living in the age of a pandemic, which has changed our way of life.

Except for medical professionals, no one’s daily operations have probably been more altered than that of the educator.

Seeing as how multiple changes to the way teachers conduct daily business, COVID has been hard on them. Luckily, the state is finally coming around to recognize our educators for what they are worth by approving raises, or at least working toward that goal in small incremental annual cash supplements that don’t nearly reflect how much many Mississippians revere their sacrifice and dedication.

For a few intrepid volunteers that made up the Harper McCaughan PTO board, it was decided unanimously that the teachers deserved a little bit extra this year.

Since it wasn’t logistically feasible or was scoffed at for being beyond the limits of what one would call cruel and unusual punishment, they didn’t go the route of getting each of the teachers a puppy from the humane society. The PTO’s alternative solution was to fill their bellies until all the teachers were as fat as volleyballs and relieve their ever-strained pocketbooks by feeding the 75 staff and faculty that make up the cadre of HMES breakfast and lunch.

Each morning, 75 bagels from Bagel Bees were dropped off with a bevy of recruitments and an assortment of every flavor cream cheese that Stef Jantz had made fresh that week.

For Lunch on Monday, the aroma of fresh roasted brisket and pork hung in the air like a dense harbor fog as it wafted down the halls and activating the appetites of teachers while simultaneously arousing jealousy in nearly every kid who shuffled along in their single-file lines to eat whatever mystery meat was to be served in the cafeteria. The teachers huddled around the sandwiches and found little tubs of baked beans and tater salad to accompany the meat.

After the second round of bagels, which I noted nearly any survived the great bagel massacre of the HMES teacher’s lounge, lunch was served. Five trays of Subway sandwiches were piled high. Apparently Quarles Elementary had the same idea and a small but correctable snafu happened when the orders got mixed up.

The Subway manager and her band of employees formerly known and marketed as “sandwich artists” worked with the same vigor and tenacity as a mound of mad fire ants to get both orders out in time for lunch. The sandwiches were delivered with seconds to spare and the teachers again descended onto the conference table in the teacher’s lounge akin to locusts on a cornfield. What was left was devastation. Happy, sweet total devastation. No sandwich was left alive to tell the horrible tale.

On the third day, more fistfuls of bagels were consumed in what could only be described as a ravenous rave of hungry educators.

Lunch was catered by Dickey’s BBQ. The jalapeno’s in the sausage at this lunch was barely a speedbump on the way to the chopped brisket and loaded baked potato casserole pans that were more than likely licked clean in a broom closet. To say that these teachers seemed to feel appreciated was an understatement.

On the final day, the PTO pulled out the big guns. After the last round of bagels were digested, an up-scale prime rib dinner from Harbor View Cafe was on the menu complete with side salads and loaded baked potatoes. Again, the teachers tore into this lunch like it was their last prime rib dinner they would ever see.

Other small tokens of affection were delivered to the teachers throughout the week like gift cards, thank you letters, and coffee mugs.

At the end of the day, the PTO just hopes that the teachers will remember this week in the dark moments of the COVID and Post COVID teaching world and it will remind them that they are not alone.

Amid the throngs of complaining parents out there who criticize what they cannot fathom, there are people who, although they cannot fathom the difficulties of teaching in this environment, love them, cherish their dedication, and above appreciate them.