Marking the pandemic anniversary with a story of hope

This month marks one year from the beginning of the global pandemic that has upended all of our lives. Over the past year, we have struggled to find new ways to connect, to keep each other safe, to ensure our students’ access to a quality education and to find a way forward through these challenging times.

That is why I found Meghan Radimer’s story of connection and motivation to be so powerful. Meghan, a PreK-6th grade physical education and health teacher is also the Sussex County Teacher of the Year. She is an impressive athlete in her own right, and she used her passion to motivate and connect with her students, even when they could not be together.

Meghan, an avid runner, decided to run a mile for each student in her school. She posted the results of her runs every few days so the students could see the progress she was making, follow along with her, and encourage her.

In 35 days, Meghan ran 255 miles—one for each of her students and one bonus mile. She made a video of her project and shared it with her students.

I think what makes this story so powerful is its simplicity: Meghan found a way to connect with her students and let them know she was thinking of them while also demonstrating how staying active can help them deal with challenging times. In good or bad weather, Meghan found a way to run and she showed her students that she would let nothing stop her. By her example, she showed students how to set goals, break them down to manageable steps, motivate themselves, and achieve them.

We know that we still have many obstacles ahead of us, but Meghan’s story really drives home how dedicated we are to overcoming challenges and how we can turn to each other through our union and keep going.

NJEA members have done so much to keep our students happy, healthy, safe and learning, even during a pandemic. You are the backbone not only of your communities and our state, but the world, because you are building our future one student at a time. Thank you for everything you do to meet our students’ unique needs. Working together, as educators and advocates, I know we will continue to meet the challenges we face.

I hope that you will join with me in celebrating ESPs. Together, as a united association, we have built the best system of public education in the nation. Together, we will face whatever other challenges come our way. Thank you for all that you do to make the future brighter for our students, our communities, our profession and our country.

Marie Blistan