Dr. Susan Salcido, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools | Credit: Courtesy

The year 2020 gave us downs, ups, backwards, and sideways, to say the least. The year was full of reality that seemed unimaginable at this time last year. Far too many friends, family members, and neighbors lost jobs and closed businesses, and a staggering number of individuals lost their lives. The daily interactions we used to have, connecting us with people outside our homes, were distorted in major ways. 

The weight of these nine months has been difficult to bear, and still, we are resilient. We adapt in admirable ways, and find light and silver linings —surprising brightness inside dark circumstances.  

The 2020 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, Michele Franz, Orcutt Union School District, made this reflection on 2020: “The silver lining of this pandemic has definitely been how our busy lives have quieted down. There has been more time to connect with my children, my husband and to reconnect with family and friends. The quiet has also allowed me time to seek new learning in all areas of my life — teaching, self-care, relationships, and more.”

When a year ends and a new one begins, we often look back to reflect on what has passed, and look to the new year with renewed resolve and optimism. This year, we all look forward to the time when the pandemic is safely behind us.   

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In that spirit, we sought the help of students, teachers, and school staff from several school districts throughout Santa Barbara County. We asked what silver linings have come from the pandemic, if any, and what they are looking forward to doing when the pandemic ends. Here are some of the responses from Carpinteria Unified School District, College School District, Guadalupe Union School District, Los Olivos Elementary School District, Santa Barbara Unified School District, and Vista Del Mar Union School District.

“I really like bouncing on my ball while working from home,” said Clara, a student at Vista Del Mar Union School District. “I really look forward to see[ing] my friends. One of my favorite things is to ride the bus.” 

College School District students also offered several silver linings and hopes for the new year:

“A silver lining for me during this pandemic has been that at school we have to wear masks and on cold days it keeps me warm,” said Mateo. “One thing I would like to do when the pandemic is over is go to every place that was closed. I would also like to rip my mask off, dig a hole, and never see it again.”

“I got a new puppy and he always makes me happy. When I’m sad, my puppy is always there to put me in a good mood,”  Kristin shared.

“What I look forward to when the pandemic is over is getting to see my family! I miss them so much and we haven’t seen each other in such a long time. I was supposed to go to Mexico this year to see my family but I can’t with the pandemic going on. But it’s ok, I can see them next year when this is all over,” wrote Stephanie.

“I look forward to going back to normal school. I can’t wait to stop wearing masks and worrying about social distancing. I want to play on the playground with my friends,” said Makyla.

Carpinteria High School student Dianna said a silver lining for her has been “getting to be home to take care of my younger siblings and getting to spend lots of quality time all together as a family.” 

Teachers and school staff shared similar sentiments and are looking forward to being together with their students in the classroom.  

Said 2021 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, Frank Koroshec, Santa Barbara Unified School District, “We now recognize more than ever how important our connection is with each of our students. I am very much looking forward to being reunited with my students to celebrate their accomplishments in person.”

Many teachers praised the skills their students displayed during this challenging year. “I have marveled at the problem-solving skills that students have equipped themselves with during online learning. They are often teaching me computer shortcuts and tricks. Their ability to troubleshoot issues has been encouraging,” said Jen, an instructional assistant in Carpinteria Unified School District.

“As a teacher, I look forward to having all of my students back in the classroom and engaging with them in person each day. Their positive energy and upbeat personalities are contagious, and being exposed to that every day is a big part of why I enjoy teaching so much,” shared Anthony, College School District.

 “What I am most looking forward to is welcoming my students with a big hug each day as they come in the front door. And sharing a read-aloud without a mask!” said Heather from Los Olivos Elementary School District. 

Carpinteria Unified School District teacher Amber said, “I am really looking forward to being able to give my students a real high five for all of the hard work. They have worked so hard, accomplished so much, and they have a really positive attitude about everything. I am so very proud of them all.” 

“Social distancing has been very difficult because of the need for human connection. But it has also made me look for different creative ways of expressing kindness, patience, and compassion,” said Dolores, office manager, Guadalupe Union School District.

It seems that most, if not all of us, deeply miss in-person experiences with friends and extended family. However, as Dolores reminded us, it is the kindness, patience, and compassion of others that serve as a true light in this dark time.  

Thank you to the students, educators, and staff for sharing examples of silver linings, and for helping to articulate our collective hope for a very happy, healthy, and fulfilling new year for all.

Susan Salcido, EdD, is the Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools.

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