America’s teachers have been designated as “essential workers” meriting high placement on the priority list for vaccination against the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
Indeed, teachers from coast to coast have stepped into the breach in many ways since late last winter, meeting the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and doing their best to keep students healthy, safe and engaged with their studies amid tumultuous times.
To express its gratitude and pride in the nearly 3,000 Hastings College graduates now helping schools and their students to keep moving forward, the HC Alumni Association recently presented all of them with its 2020 Outstanding Alumni Award.
Each is to receive an award poster and a face mask.
Matt Fong, associate vice president for external relations at the college, said the award is a gesture of HC’s esteem for its graduates now working in schools across the United States and beyond.
“There’s no doubt families and community members across the country have recognized the vital work of educators in our communities,” Fong said in an early December news release announcing the awards. “Hastings College has a long and successful history of educating teachers, and nearly 3,000 alumni are currently serving in classrooms around the world. We’re thrilled to be able to recognize them for the good work they do, and the extra effort they continue to make to put their kids first.”
According to the college, the Outstanding Alumni Award honors HC alums “who have made significant achievements in their professional or personal lives, made a significant contribution to society through personal leadership and service or have demonstrated leadership in support of the advancement or welfare of Hastings College.”
The award was established in 1951. Never before has it been presented to a group of alumni.
“Teaching is a rewarding profession and one that can also be exhausting and pull at a teacher’s heartstrings,” said Darci Karr, chair of the Hastings College Teacher Education Department. “It has been heartwarming to hear from our alumni about the work they are doing to support students in these unique times.
“Flexibility has always been part of teaching, but that has new meaning this year. Teachers are creative and doing amazing things to help all students learn and to support their needs. It is an honor to recognize that creativity, hard work and caring that comes from deep inside each teacher. We are very proud of all our teachers. You make a difference!”
Jeff Schneider, superintendent of Hastings Public Schools, employs many Hastings College graduates as members of the HPS faculty and staff.
Schneider said it’s hard to overstate his admiration for teachers’ work this year and the sacrifices they are making to help keep schools open and students learning and growing — no matter where those teachers earned their degrees.
Teachers have been asked to cover for one another in the classroom and for supervision duties because of large numbers of staff absences related to COVID-19, Schneider said — often giving up precious planning time to do so.
Teachers also have been spending many hours gathering send-home materials for students in quarantine, then working with them upon their return to re-teach critical lessons they missed.
“There’s constant shuffling that takes place every day in every building because of class absences,” Schneider said. “I could just keep going.”
Administrators, faculty and staff at all Hastings area public and private schools recently celebrated the completion of the fall semester — a semester many had expected to be marred by the collapse of in-person instruction under pressure from the virus.
Schneider said as the semester began, the HPS faculty and staff had talked about focusing on what is truly important in education and life, taking care of students and taking care of one another through times of personal and professional difficulty, including anxiety and illness in their own families.
“They took care of the kids, and they took care of each other so we could get through it,” he said. “I have the utmost respect for that.”
Schneider said he’s more convinced than ever how important it is for students to be in school for in-person instruction, even when it’s complicated to make that happen safely.
‘There’s no substitute for the discussion, the interaction, the lessons you learn,” he said.
And while this fall semester was the toughest he ever has experienced in 26 years in education, Schneider said, being able to complete it with buildings open and students in the desks was immensely gratifying.
“It’s outstanding,” he said. “It’s what we’re about. It’s our mission and our vision.
“There’s never been a semester like this — not even close.”
Scott Sterling, owner of Hastings Ford Lincoln, has been in the car business for a large portion of his life.
He got his start by attending technical school and learning how to be an auto technician.
“That wasn’t my number one goal, but that’s what I ended up doing and ended up just loving it,” Sterling said.
From there, he had many opportunities to grow and gain experience in the auto industry.
Eventually, the opportunity arose to own his own dealership.
In 2012, the Rydell Automotive Group purchased Frontier Ford Lincoln in Hastings and renamed it Hastings Ford Lincoln.
Rydell Automotive Group began looking for someone to run the business.
“At the time, I was working in Iowa and so they called me up and said great news it’s you and your family’s opportunity,” Sterling said.
So his family left Iowa and moved to Hastings to run the dealership. The business has grown from 16 employees in 2012 to more than 60 today.
Later, Sterling was offered another opportunity by the Rydell Automotive Group.
“After growing Hastings Ford Lincoln and making it successful, the Rydell Auto Group gave me the opportunity to purchase it from them and become the sole owner,” Sterling said.
Sterling and his wife, Susan, took ownership of the business in 2019, continuing on the same path that had made the dealership successful.
“We strive to provide an honest, transparent and hassle-free experience for our customers,” he said.
He said the business strives to create a place that makes customers feel welcome when they first arrive.
“Each guest is greeted and personally escorted to where they need to go,” Sterling said.
He said he knows that sometimes car dealerships can be perceived in a bad light, which is why they try hard to provide an individualized experience that will make a customer feel comfortable.
“Customers will feel right at home, as if they are conversing with an old friend as we help address their needs and concerns,” Sterling said. “Our number one priority is providing great customer service and only having customers for life.”