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Pastides Alumni Center
University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina

THE SECOND LADY: Thank you. You know, as a teacher myself, I want to just take a moment to thank all the teachers because we all quickly learned how to do online teaching, and it wasn’t something that our teachers across America were familiar with, and so I applaud the teachers who stepped up right away. I know at our school it was a lot of, you know, me emailing the IT specialist saying, “Okay, now wait a minute. How do I put these art projects in a folder on this new platform?” And I know the teachers worked really, really hard.

But the parents are really the unsung heroes — and I know we have some parents in the room today — because they really had to get up to speed, and many of them were trying to telework from home as well and trying to juggle the time on the computer. “Okay, I have a Zoom meeting and you have a Zoom class. Hang on. Let’s figure this out.” It added a lot of stress to our families. So thank you to all the parents.

But it’s our kids who are struggling, and they need their friends, and they need their teachers. And I’ve got to tell you: I love seeing the kids over here in the audience today. It makes me eager to get back in the classroom. But they need their routines, and the routines won’t be exactly the same. I mean, I’m an art teacher, and I don’t get to teach in my art room this year. I go cart — with a cart, from room to room, because it’s going to keep the kids safer. They have their own supplies. I don’t set out supplies this year. So there are ways that we can make it safe for our kids. But they need their routines — whatever the new routines are.

So the decision to open up schools greatly impacts our children. It impacts them academically, which we’re seeing; it impacts them socially; and it impacts them emotionally. And so our kids, for their mental health and for their academic health, need to be back in school.

So thank you for letting me be here today.