Detroit educator among 25 across U.S. honored with Ford award for helping families during pandemic

Posted at 10:16 AM, Dec 07, 2021

(WXYZ) — "Whatever it took to get the job done. That's what we had to do," said educator Lisa Long.

When the pandemic hit nearly two years ago, Long went on a mission to make the transition seamless for her then kindergartners.

"You can't let that show to your children, your students that you're nervous, that you're scared. So I had to put on this facade like, 'hey, everything's OK. And you know, we're going to be OK,' but really deep down inside, 'can I really do this?,'" said Long.

A teacher at Cornerstone Jefferson-Douglass Academy in Detroit, Long embraced virtual learning, despite the steep learning curve.

"That wasn't my niche, you know, chalk, blackboard, piles of paper," she said.

And not long after the switch, she realized that parents needed some guidance, too.

"A lot of children didn't have the support that they needed. And so I would have, a lot of times, to be off hours, most of the time off hours, making sure they got it, making sure that they had the support and parents had the support they needed," said Long.

Long and her paraprofessional made themselves available at all hours to help make virtual learning a bit more manageable for parents juggling so much.

"Parents appreciate you being flexible like that and open. And it just made them feel a little more comfortable. 'I know it's nine o'clock, Miss Long, but I'm really struggling here. Can you please help?' OK, let's get to it," said Long.

It was Long's willingness to do whatever it took for her students to achieve that garnered the attention of Ford.

And Miss Lisa Long became one of 25 educators across the country to receive the Ford Motor Company Fund "Teacher Heroes of COVID-19” Award. It was a special edition of the annual Ford Freedom Unsung award series, which celebrates people doing extraordinary things in the African American community.

"We really wanted to celebrate teachers and celebrate everything they've done for kids this year," said Pamela Alexander, Director of Community Development, Ford Motor Company Fund. "These teachers are going above and beyond the situation where they themselves are struggling with issues from the pandemic."

Long and the other award winners received $1,000 along with additional resources for the classroom.

"I'm just very humbled and I'm very grateful," said Long. "You get to be appreciated for something that you love doing anyway."