By Dave Ongie, News Editor
The Science Hill Parent, Teacher and Student (PTSA) organization had a plan in place to honor students during an inaugural Student Appreciation Day last April.
But then, as was the case with so many things, COVID-19 reared its ugly head. Students spent the remainder of the school year following spring break learning virtually, and those plans were put on hold.
When April 15 rolled around this year, Science Hill students were back in school and the celebration of the students and all they achieved during such a difficult school year seemed more important than ever.
“We wanted to encourage and celebrate our students, who have worked hard and persevered through a very challenging year,” said Rebecca Horvath, president of Science Hill’s PTSA. “It’s even more meaningful now and we would love to see it become a tradition at The Hill and even get the community involved. We have amazing students, and we want them to know they’re seen, appreciated, and valued.”
Students arrived at school last Thursday and were greeted by a video that included messages from members of the Johnson City Board of Education, Johnson City Mayor Joe Wise, Senator Marsha Blackburn, Governor Bill Lee, Johnson City Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett, Science Hill counselors and Benny Tolley. Random drawings were held and 250 students received gift cards. Each student also received a small gift and a note from their second-period teacher.
Marissa Gibbons, a senior at Science Hill, was thankful for the appreciation day but said the teachers, staff and administrators at Science Hill have been great about making sure this year has gone as smoothly as possible.
“During the pandemic, it was hard because it was isolating, and it can be difficult to learn remotely,” Gibbons said. “But I felt like all the teachers at Science Hill were very supportive and very connected to their students. It made it very easy to make that transition from in-person to virtual with the teachers we have here.”
Ann Graves, a science teacher at Science Hill, said she always goes out of her way to write notes to her students to encourage them, but added that showing appreciation has taken on an increased importance this year because some students have struggled with isolation over the past year.
“I do this for my students every year,” Graves said. “I think these students give a lot to us and take a lot from us, and it’s just important that they know they’re important to us as individuals.”
Gibbons and fellow senior Ava Yobst are grateful for all the work that has gone into making this year as normal as possible under the circumstances, but Yobst said the unique experience will be something she tells her children and grandchildren about one day.
“I think since our experience has been so out of the ordinary, there are going to be stories that are going to be told for many years,” Yobst said.