Last year around this time we held our first OneTSS day to spend time together as a community, get a little inspiration, and celebrate all things place-based education. If you need a little reminder, you can find it here. We capped off the day with our annual TSS holiday party with some Bavarian spirit at the Alpenhof. In the social distancing of now, seeing the photo above reminds me of the warmth and community of last year.
We’re operating effectively in pods across the organization to protect the health and wellness of our students, staff, and community. Sadly, gathering all together in one physical space would not further the physical health of TSS or our community. Instead, we’re bringing a little recognition and cheer in a virtual format.
Time (and particularly time away from a screen) is so valuable these days. We debated having a OneTSS community Zoom session to replicate last year. Instead, we decided to prioritize all of our hardworking staff getting more discretionary time to rest and recharge. To enable some screen-free time, all staff should take the second half of tomorrow (Friday, 12.11) off. Teton Science Schools will pay you for the remainder of the day. Use the time to prioritize yourself — whether that’s time in nature, time with your household (while following good COVID protocols!!), or anything else. Take care of yourselves — you have earned it.
One powerful way for me to rest and recharge is to take a step back and reflect on the work TSS (that means all of you!) are doing to change education for the better. Watch this 90-second video from Tom VanderArk to all of you. Tom is a TSS Education Committee member, former head of education at the Gates Foundation, author, CEO at Getting Smart, and he brings a little perspective to the essential work you all do every day.
I hope you all have felt the love the last few weeks as we shared news of a staff bonus, TSS absorbing all health insurance premium increases (11%) for the calendar year 2021, and moving the remaining 80% staff back to 100% as the calendar year comes to a close. The bonus and health insurance are meant to show appreciation for each of your hard work and dedication to the TSS mission through a complex time. Thank you.
On the theme of gratitude, please take three and a half minutes to watch this video the TSS Board put together to recognize all you do for our students, organization, and mission.
Learning in place builds resilience in our students. As employees, you all have demonstrated this resilience through change during COVID. I think back to previous changes over the years that have been essential in our response to COVID. Imagine trying to navigate this world without our Google suite adoption in 2016. Picture navigating all the operational complexities of COVID without having the unification of one independent school across two campuses. What if we dove into virtual learning without the advanced work of our Place Network team piloting many of these tools with network schools before COVID. All of these changes were hard at the time. They also made us better and more resilient for future challenges to come.
As they say, change is a constant. You all have shown the ability to navigate change and improve TSS in the process. Even as COVID wanes, there will be future changes that the organization will face. I am confident TSS will be better and stronger as a result.