Celebrating Teachers at the Tobin School

Last October, Jannet Sanchez started working as a City Connects Coordinator at Boston’s Maurice J. Tobin School.

Her first step? Learn about her new school quickly by building strong relationships with teachers.

Classes had been going on for a month, but only remotely because of the pandemic, so Sanchez couldn’t have the face-to-face interactions with students that help coordinators get to know their schools.

Relationships with teachers filled this gap. Teachers shared feedback on how students were doing, supplementing what Sanchez could see when she did classroom observations on Zoom.

To conduct whole class reviews, Sanchez met with teachers in teams so she could hear multiple perspectives on each student.

“We communicated a lot about the best services for kids. And some teachers asked me to set up social skills groups,” Sanchez says. “One teacher asked us to come up with a girls leadership group because there were some mean girl dynamics. Another teacher asked for an art club, so I set that up. It was me and the art teacher encouraging girls to draw and socialize.” 

The teacher/coordinator relationship is crucial — whether there is or isn’t a pandemic — because it’s a two-way street. Coordinators learn from teachers’ about students strengths and needs. And teachers learn more from coordinators about all the City Connects domains — academic, social/emotional, physical health, and family — of students’ lives. 

Last month, the Tobin opened its doors to students who wanted to return to school in person, shifting back to a more “normal” school year.

And earlier this month, a grateful Sanchez jumped in to help her colleagues celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week.

“It was such a tough year for teachers. We all really wanted to do something special for them,” Sanchez says of Efrain Toledano, the Tobin’s principal, Jessica Ekhomu, the vice principal, and Ginnelle Vasquez, the school social worker.

There were five days of events. On Monday, the teachers got free coffee and pastries from Starbucks. Sanchez used to work for the coffee chain and asked her former manager for a donation. Other days featured raffles, candles wrapped with shout outs from colleagues for each teacher, appreciation videos and appreciative notes from students.

On Thursday, there was even a “Relaxation Room” set up for teachers. This room had fans, soft lighting, and relaxing music. And teachers could go to different stations, among them a doodling station, a coloring station, a fidget station, a foot massager, neck massager, a hydration station, and even a small Zen garden to rake. Teachers also had the option to participate in a yoga session if they wanted. Sanchez recruited a friend to teach yoga for a few hours and asked the owner of her health club to lend the school yoga mats. Sanchez along with school support staff and administrators also covered classes for teachers who wanted to spend more time in the relaxation room.

“All that planning was a lot of fun. I was worried about everything going well, but every day went better than what I’d had in mind. We have great leaders at the Tobin, and they were all a big part of the success of Teacher Appreciation Week.”

As she closes out this school year, Sanchez is excited about returning to school in September. 

“I love the Tobin,” she says. “I really feel like it’s a great fit for me, and I’m looking forward to working with the students and the terrific teachers.”

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