Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series called Silver Linings highlighting stories about how East Texans are pulling together during the coronavirus pandemic.
This past week, Jeff Sims lived the realities of a poem he wrote acknowledging the new challenges East Texas — and the world — are meeting head on as COVID-19 continues to spread.
He used the poem “Still I Teach” to launch a new Facebook page he said he created to help bring people together as a nation, while recognizing often unsung heroes. Sims, an economics teacher at East Texas Charter School, plans to write a poem for the page each day.
He and his wife, Kristina, have four children. Their daughter, Juliana, made the red, white and blue art decorating the Facebook page, “One and Indivisible.”
”Spring Break! It’s Extended?
Wait, what? For how long?
My students — they need me.
Online? This feels wrong.”
”I’ll adapt. It’s OK.
They can learn from afar.
Though, how can I hug them?
Social Distancing’s bizarre.”
His real life reflected those opening lines of the poem this week, as he went to his school and began working with fellow teachers to answer the question of what instruction will look like in the coming weeks. Online materials were organized in an easily accessible format, he said, while paper packets went out to students who needed non-computer based options.
Sims also has added poems about nurses and grocery stockers as well:
”At first it was hand sanitizer, and masks
That we just couldn’t keep on the shelf.
Add to that, then, the wipes, Ibuprofen and bleach
I restocked them and prayed for our health.”
The poem continues as the store employee continues to go to work in challenging circumstances.
Sims said the page and the poems are the answer he came to after searching for a way to make this time “not so miserable.”
“I decided I was going to write a poem each day highlighting the everyday heroes that I just see continuing to do their job in a very different way,” he said. He’s sought input from nurses before writing, for example, and tries to put himself in the shoes of the people he’s depicting.
“Those everyday heroes can be sometimes overlooked, and we need each other now more than ever,” Sims said.