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Mon teachers, staffers give good grades to the school system

COVID outbreaks.

Threats of gun violence.

Bursts of gun violence.

TikTok challenges celebrating mayhem and vandalism.

Over the past year in America’s schools, it could be said that teachers and other professionals who make things go in the classroom and the building were standing on shaky ground.

While everyone worked to keep equilibrium, one societal seismic shift after the other rippled in.

Which was precisely why Michael Ryan was heartened Tuesday night, as he stood on solid footing before members of the Monongalia County Board of Education.

The former school guidance counselor, who now coordinates student support programs for the district, had one more set of grades to present to the BOE during its meeting.

And Mon Schools, as an employer, he said, came out pretty well.

Ryan broke down the results of a quality of life survey taken by the above workers in a survey offered earlier this spring.

Of the 692 district associates who responded, nearly 98% said their work “mattered.”

Another 93% characterized their jobs as “meaningful,” and 67.6% graded themselves as being “quite effective” in their occupation as educators and facilitators, among the other categories.

Then came the ultimate grade: A total of 58.9% said they “were extremely satisfied” with the work that provides their paychecks.

“Well, that was the key question,” Ryan said.

And the one he and his colleagues in the support services division had been cramming for since the pandemic changed everything in 2020.

During those days, teachers and staffers openly admitted their frustrations, from trying to negotiate the politics and particulars of remote learning to living under the shadow of COVID, with family members suffering from the contagion.

In response, Ryan, who was West Virginia’s School Guidance Counselor of the Year in 2018, went to work.

He and his colleagues began devising psychological pick-me-ups for teachers and staffers, so they, in turn, could share the wealth with their students.

The well-being of all in the building, Ryan said, was the mission.

“We came up with little refreshers — ‘How to take care of yourselves,’ ” he said.

“This year we really wanted to put things in their place,” he continued.

Which meant a realistic look at expectations, he said — particularly in how everyone from students to staffers must coexist with COVID now.

The survey, he proudly noted, had its say.

“Our teachers and staffers are more engaged, so they’re less exhausted,” he said.

Plus, the personal satisfaction numbers in Mon’s schools came out higher than the ones in the most-recent nationwide Merrimack Teacher Survey, in which just 12% of respondents expressed the same with their jobs.

Meanwhile, BOE President Nancy Walker showed the same enthusiasm as Ryan for the results and resilience of the participants.

“At the beginning, we still weren’t sure what the school year was going to look like,” she said. “It was stressful.”

Like Ryan, she said the numbers gave a compelling narrative: from August to June, the thread went — victories and setbacks included.

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