In Covid, teaching heroes popped up everywhere

The coronavirus pandemic brought out the best in so many within the teaching profession that choosing our person of the year for 2020 has been an near impossible task
18th December 2020, 12:00am
In The Year Of Covid, Teaching Heroes Popped Up Everywhere
Henry Hepburn


In Covid, teaching heroes popped up everywhere

Just 12 months ago, I signed off my last editorial of the year by wishing all our readers "a happy, fulfilling and successful 2020". Well, there's always 2021. Not so fast, though - times of crisis always have a flipside: in education, at least, it's not that hard to find the shafts of light amid the gloom.

And when the crisis is as profound as that of Covid-19, then, paradoxically, the light can shine even more brightly.

That's why, in what is now an annual event for us here at Tes Scotland, selecting our 10 people of the year felt different this year: there were just so many to choose from.

The list is dominated by those who went above and beyond in their response to the pandemic, although other landmark events - both national and international - are reflected, from the publication of the seminal review on additional support for learning in Scotland to the surge into the global collective consciousness of Black Lives Matter.

And one pick harks back to a Scottish triumph at the Tes Schools Awards in November, which reminded us of the impact that the often under-appreciated early years sector can have - it's high time that leaders in nurseries were given more recognition for the foundations they lay in a child's education.

Covid has, however, overshadowed everything in Scottish education since it swept through Scotland in March, and our list reflects that. We celebrate the imagination, resourcefulness and compassion that has been so apparent since those dramatic days in March when, at one point, it seemed that historic decisions were being made every day, and when normality was turned upside down.

Every one of our choices has done something outstanding but each also represents a wider body of people from which they sprang. They are emblems of a bigger cause, of a broader collective effort.

Stephen Stewart may have been among the first teachers to turn their school into a supplier of personal protective equipment, but many more followed. Blair Minchin's audacious approach to remote learning typified the ingenuity of so many teachers in Scotland. Alana Pignatiello and Siobhan Argyle's explosions of creativity in lockdown echoed that of countless educators across the land. And at 17 years old, Erin Bleakley was the focal point for the anger of thousands of students who righteously and eloquently expressed why they were wronged by the SQA results in August.

Covid-19 has infiltrated the lives of everyone in Scotland, and around the world, in a way that was scarcely imaginable this time last year. As with all epochal events, it has been - for better and worse - a catalyst for profound change: for the mass, rapid adoption of learning that does not rely on school buildings, and for the serious consideration being given to whether high-stakes, end-of-year exams are needed at all.

Covid has ripped up plans and done damage to the school calendar that even world wars couldn't manage. And, of course, it has taken lives by the thousands. It's too easy to become blasé about the death toll of Covid, so familiar have the daily tallies of lost lives become - but we must never forget those families that have been hit hardest of all.

The all-encompassing, all-consuming power of Covid ensured that there could be only one person of the year - but you'll have to click ahead to find out who it is.

Enjoy this special Christmas issue as we all look ahead to life after Covid, whenever we can finally declare that it has begun. We have enjoyed putting together what we hope will be an inspiring read to mark the end of a traumatic year.

Right, let's try this again: to all our readers, a very merry Christmas - and here's to a happy, fulfilling and successful 2021.


This article originally appeared in the 18/25 December 2020 issue under the headline "So many beacons of light have shone through the 2020 darkness"

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