Like every teacher, Kyle Stern is missing the daily interaction with his students during this COVID-19 crisis, so he made up his mind to let them know he’s thinking of them.
“Even though school is closed, I want my students to understand that I’m still here for them. That all the teachers and school staff at Argo High School are here for them and care about them,” Stern said.
Since mid-March, the 19-year math teacher, council president, and member of the West Suburban Teachers Union (Local 571) has written at least one letter, card, or postcard to every student. He’s also written to former students he taught or coached. He’s sent birthday cards, notes of recognition for excellent work during this online learning period, and words of encouragement to students who are having a difficult time during the pandemic.
“I’ve heard from students who have been directly impacted by COVID-19 because of family members who were will ill or died. I’ve even heard from parents about their struggles at this time,” he said. “We’re all in this together right now – me, them, and every member of our school community – and I want my students to feel that.”
Email might seem an easier way to communicate, but Stern believes it’s less personal, and not every student has consistent access to the technology needed to receive his messages. Besides, he is a huge supporter of the United States Postal Service (USPS), which is currently facing financial challenges and is too often criticized for their service.
“These letters I send students bring them and their parents joy, and the USPS does a fantastic job of getting them there. I’m committed to helping to support their outstanding efforts, so I also wrote to my lawmakers to urge their support for USPS, at all times, not just during this crisis,” he added.
Not only has Stern spent his stay-at-home time teaching, reaching out to students, and advocating for the postal service, he and his wife have made personal donations to numerous charities on behalf of members and leaders of the Argo Council of Local 571. Some organizations that have benefited from his kindness include the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Silver Cross Hospital, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Youth Outreach Services.
“We need to support our communities right now,” he said. “In the end, students are my priority, so I’ll keep my letters coming,” he added “I always tell them that I’m rooting for them and that they’re worth more than anything I can ever write on a piece of paper. And it’s more important for them to know that now than ever.”