Dear Simon Youth Academy Teachers,

The last few weeks have pressed everyone into being a teacher. As if it was that easy, and more often than not, people are finding out that it is much harder than all of us realized.

As Teacher Appreciation Week is celebrated this week across the country, I want to take the opportunity to show my appreciation and thank you for all you do for Simon Youth Academy students. Now more than ever, all of us at the Foundation cannot thank you enough for your dedication to helping students reach graduation day.

The circumstances brought on by COVID-19 have challenged you and your students. While balancing your own family, you’ve had to adopt new strategies for teaching and staying closely engaged with your students in a virtual environment. Many of you are logging more hours of work, often outside of a standard school day, so that the students working on the front lines have access to engaging, educational and meaningful experiences. Many of you have done simple gestures such as picking up drive-thru just to see a student and offer some encouraging words, and some of you even sent Door Dash to students who just passed a class. You have demonstrated that although our students have grit and resilience like no other, you know that like all of us, reassurance that they will be okay is just as important.

Most importantly, you haven’t let these difficult times diminish your passion or dedication for helping students graduate. Since the start of the pandemic, you have celebrated 92 graduates from 12 Simon Youth Academies!

Simon Youth Academy students consistently report that the support they receive from their teachers is what makes their school stand out. You help your students overcome difficult circumstances in school, and in their personal lives. They know that they would be where they are today without your support, and so do I. Just as you look at a student and see a graduate, I marvel at you who make that happen – even more so now – no matter what.

This week, and every week, all of us at SYF are grateful for you. Our Academies would not be what they are without your dedication and focus. You are the reason that SYF has graduated more than 20,000 students in 20 years.

Thank you for ensuring that SYF means graduation – no matter what.

On behalf of all of us at SYF, and with sincere gratitude, may the celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week 2020 give you the admiration and support you all so deserve!

You are my heroes of this pandemic!