So, this whole week I’ve been going through mixed emotions of anger, sadness, fear and every other imaginable feeling and I know that I am not alone.

Today I had a career day at a local middle school and I’ll be honest, I was nervous. I am a person that deals with extreme anxiety on a regular basis so after the tragic shooting at Uvalde Elementary school and then the lockdown at Bel Air High School I was on another level of anxiety today.

I wanted to cancel my career day appearance but then I thought, If teachers are still showing up to school every single day despite these tragic and scary events happening around them then so can you, Iris.

So I showed up. I was greeted by a welcoming and smiling receptionist. Before I got to the the classroom I needed to be in I was stopped by a smiling teacher who asked to take a selfie with me and thanked me for coming to their school. He walked me to the classroom where I was going to be presenting and I was then greeted by another teacher who had the most welcoming personality ever.

After my presentation, I met the counselors and staff who all had smiles on their faces and thanked all of the presenters for speaking to their student’s today.

I describe this experience because it was so comforting to see these teachers and staff members going on with their regular day, knowing that their place of work is now known to many as the number one place where tragedy has been occurring lately.

I have ALWAYS had such a deep appreciation for educators but that appreciation grew even more when I myself became a substitute teacher and I witnessed how much work and dedication the teachers around me put in day and night to make sure their students not only excelled academically, but they made sure their students were feeling mentally and emotionally well every single day.

A photo was recently shared online of Bel Air High School teacher Mr. Russell sitting in a dark classroom with his cell phone out and a pair of scissors nearby. You can see the look of fear on his face but he knows that his job at that moment is to make sure his students are safe. While that broke my heart it also gave me this sense of hope and relief knowing that our teachers would do anything for the safety of our children.

Dear Teachers, It’s not supposed to be this way, but unfortunately it is. For now. And I’m sorry.

The pandemic did a number on your mental health but you continued to be there for our students. You persevered through the stress and uncertainty because you cared.

Dear Teachers, when you applied to become an educator you envisioned a career that would involve expanding the minds of our youth, teaching them new and exciting things and having some fun along the way.

You didn’t sign up to shield them from bullets. But it’s safe to say that teachers, you would take a bullet for your students because those kids are more than just students to you. For more than half of the year they are your people and you will do anything for your people.

Dear Teachers, You are overworked and underpaid and you know it but everyday you wake up, walk into those school doors and you show up. Coffee in hand and a smile that may be masking a million other emotions.

You show up because when you were younger you had a teacher that showed up for you regardless of what was happening around them.

Dear Teachers, in case no one has told you yet, I appreciate you and I thank you for not giving up.