To our teachers: Thank you.
Thank you for your unwavering devotion to your profession, our children, and constantly pushing for education to evolve, adapt, and overcome.
For over 2 years we’ve been listening to friends, family and colleagues in education talk about the struggle with student morale and performance due to social isolation and loss of sports and activities; It has been difficult for children taking on complex emotional responsibilities they typically aren’t prepared for. During another round of remote learning, teacher Holly Eccles (Prince of Wales Elementary, DSBN), reached out to us with an update on her Nutritower. While the plants in her tower were beaming with joy, of even greater importance, so too were the students who were tending to them!
We reached back with our own questions to find out what her special formula is for bringing out the best during these confusing times. Her students appeared to be thriving as her devotion and enthusiasm came through every line of her letter. We asked Holly more about her experience with the Nutritower, her students, and her thoughts on education especially during the pandemic. What we learned gave us tremendous hope for the future.
When Holly began applying for the Metro Green Apple grant to fund a healthy eating initiative in her school, she first considered having a healthy food taste test followed by a session with a nutritionist. She opted for a longterm, sustainable source of food because some students at her school don’t come with enough food to eat,
“I thought that a Nutritower would be a great way to bring something new and exciting to the school while also providing some healthy snacks for the kids to try for years to come”.
Their indoor garden has become a gathering point for students and staff alike.
“The Nutritower is on the third floor of our historical old school. It sits in the middle of a big open landing area next to some beautiful, big windows. The grade 2/3s, myself and the caretaker are currently taking care of it. Once covid settles down, I will be starting an eco team with kids from grades 4-8 who can help tend to it when the grade 2/3's are too busy”.
They’ve completed their first harvest of lettuce with a second one around the corner. The cherry tomatoes and green beans are slower to catch up, but flowers show the promise of delicious treats to come.
"They’ve already faced some growing challenges with germinating strawberries, but rather than abandoning their efforts, Holly’s students are troubleshooting the process and are determined to grow them!"
While growing food from seeds can be fickle, school closures and pandemic safety rules have added some hurdles. This wasn’t the case for Holly’s students.
“During the lockdown, the students were able to come and pick up bundles of lettuce from our tower and share it with their families. Extending our produce to families was a great way to help make parents and guardians feel like part of the school community".
Holly was able to continue caring for the Nutritower and it remained a point of gathering, even at a distance.
Inspired by her perseverance and creativity, we asked Holly about her experience teaching during the pandemic and her motivation for keeping the students engaged.
“It has been hard to adapt to the rules that are in place during the pandemic. However, I will do anything and everything to try and ensure my students can be learning in-person safely… My students have been rockstars though, they have adjusted seamlessly. The biggest shift I have seen in education is the focus on mental health. Mental health has been a major focus and I hope it continues to be a focus long after the pandemic is over. Kids can't learn if they are not happy and healthy, both physically and mentally”.
We were surprised by her answer, it is a relief to know the conversations surrounding mental health are starting early.
The pandemic has disrupted so many aspects of our lives that mental health and wellbeing became an important subject. We are optimistic for the future knowing there are teachers like Holly Eccles who create environments for kids to thrive in - her efforts will undoubtedly resonate for generations as she instills the values needed to build compassionate and confident leaders.
NT: Why did you want to become a teacher? 😊 Teaching always felt like such a natural fit for me. I had a desire to work with children and found...