| My COVID Hero |

Just Showing Up   

  As we mark one year since the pandemic changed our lives, we asked you to introduce us to your COVID heroes


A lot of things changed this year. Weddings, social interactions, family gatherings, and entertainment all took a steep dive. But the hardest hit side effect? Education.

High school days went from Bic pens, tote bags, cutest-shoe contests, and elaborate salads to tousled, sleepy Zoom appearances. But few are resilient like teenagers, and as a teacher, I’ve been continuously and pleasantly surprised by my class of 15-year-olds.

But the hero of my Zoom classroom is hands down Yael.

I met with my students for exactly one week before we were reduced to small squares on a screen. And in that week, I picked up on several things about Yael. One, that she’s a foreigner. Two, that she’s excruciatingly shy. And three, that given the chance, there’s a real possibility I could form a relationship with her.

Zoom isn’t exactly conducive to building a brand-new relationship; things could get awkward even for the most suave of teenage girls.

I started to notice a pattern with Yael. She’d join the meeting on time with the other girls. But any time I called on her, or was even thinking of calling on her, the little box labeled “Yael” would flicker out of sight. It could be a perfectly timed Wi-Fi issue, or more likely, Yael was hiding so she wouldn’t have to speak aloud in class.

But despite all of this, Yael was there.

Every day, every class.

I would sign in, and there she was.

We don’t really have a relationship yet. I’m davening that as soon as we restart real school, that’ll change.

But in the meantime, if I could say anything to Yael without scaring her off-line, it would be: You inspired me every day of this difficult time. You taught me that sometimes, the biggest thing you can do is to just show up.

Thanks, Yael.

Can’t wait to see you in school.

—Gila Auerbach


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 854)

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