This is the time of year when we pause and reflect on all that we are thankful for, a time for families and friends to gather to share food, swap stories and catch up on all that has happened over the past year. I have many fond personal memories of this holiday over the years. Most of which include a vivid picture of too many people crammed into an overly heated space. Accompanying my father to the annual Thanksgiving game at Fitzpatrick Stadium without a favorite team in mind is another favorite moment. At home, the air is filled with the smells of great food and the loud din of laughter, warm conversations and memories of Thanksgiving past. And, I should not forget, discussions of strategy for post-Thanksgiving shopping.

Chris Howell is the superintendent for Windham and Raymond schools.

We all know that the Thanksgiving holiday will be different this year. We have been encouraged by the Center for Disease Control to limit our exposure to only those in our household. If we are gathering with others from outside our “bubble,” we are also asked to consider eating outside and to limit our food intake to only the foods that were prepared in our own homes. As a holiday purist, each of these suggestions for the new norm of celebrating this year fall well outside of the images of past holidays that I hold in my mind.

The change in what I will experience in celebrating this year, however, has not changed the fact that I have many things in my personal and professional life to be thankful for.

I am thankful for our teachers who worked tirelessly to revamp their curriculum, learn remote learning strategies and implement cleaning strategies, and for all that they have done to support students through this pandemic.

I am thankful for our support staff, kitchen staff, custodians, bus drivers, grounds crew and secretaries for all that they have done to help our students remain safe, healthy and supported on the bus, in classrooms, on the playgrounds and in our cafeterias.

I am thankful for our administrators who have shown great leadership as they worked to develop schedules and procedures. And they have served as the ear for the many concerns and roadblocks that we have overcome over the past year.

I am thankful for our school nurses who have developed and implemented safety protocols, answered questions from families and staff and have worked tirelessly to track and record COVID-related symptoms in our district.

Finally, I am thankful to work in a greater community that believes in our students and supports them through the volunteering of their time and energy throughout the year. Your support and help are invaluable as we work to support each and every student.

I challenge each of you to take the time to reflect and share all that you are thankful for. A simple act of gratitude is contagious and will go a long way in brightening someone’s day.

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