Physical barriers have kept us apart, but they cannot stop the spread of gratitude and joy. Even behind a plastic partition, the happiness exuded by Mrs. Tehrani is both infectious and irreplaceable. Currently in her second full school year as West High’s textbook clerk, she has branched out from her regular responsibilities. Interestingly, this is on account of an underlying level of irony: while the pandemic has hindered social connection for most, Mrs. Tehrani is now able to interact with more students than she ever has.
Chapter 1: Pre-Pandemic Routine
Full of excitement, students greet the friends they haven’t seen since June. Schedules are compared, connections are rekindled, and a sense of familiarity washes over campus: the hustle and bustle of registration day is the precursor to an eventful school year. Behind the scenes, Mrs. Tehrani works alongside fellow staff in the library to ensure that students receive the materials necessary for success.
Prior to the start of the school year, textbook distribution was an important aspect of Mrs. Tehrani’s pre-pandemic responsibilities. Throughout a normal school year, she can be found in the library with Mrs. Puccio, West High’s librarian, providing textbooks for the student body. Mrs. Tehrani would work from 10 to 1, the window for “English classes to send their students down… and pick up their English books,” she explained.
However, this routine was disrupted as the pandemic released a floodgate of changes. As the virtual school year carries on, Mrs. Tehrani provides her support in several new ways.
Chapter 2: More Than a Textbook Window
Squeezing through the back gate left ajar, students enter the south side of campus and are greeted by nothing but silent hallways and empty patches of grass in front of Building 3. For many, picking up a new book for class or flyers to distribute for volunteer service has become the only opportunity for any form of on-campus activity. But as students approach the textbook window, the friendly face of Mrs. Tehrani smiles at them behind a plastic partition, through a mask.
Nowadays, Mrs. Tehrani has expanded past the world of textbooks: from science projects to sewing machines to supplies for art, she hands out a multitude of materials.
“I’m kind of the only point of contact most [students] have at this point,” Mrs. Tehrani affirmed. This is a reality faced by nearly the entire student body: “I’m one of the only ones who actually sees the kids.”
Nevertheless, organizing widespread distribution poses difficulties. Administering textbooks at the start of this school year both efficiently and safely was a challenge. Mrs. Tehrani praised West High’s “awesome parents” who usually pitch in, but were not permitted to do so this year. Nevertheless, the school community found ways to make it happen. Mrs. Tehrani expressed, “All the custodians, many of the clerical staff, Mr. Druten, and the Dean all stepped up. With just a few hiccups, we got everyone through ― social distant in pretty much four days. It was amazing.”
Chapter 3: Personal Connections
As Astrobiology student Saumya Swati (11) walked up to the textbook window one afternoon, she did not predict the touching encounter she was about to experience. “Usually I get kind of anxious around adults [or] authority figures,” she explained. But with Mrs. Tehrani, something else occurred; something much more special. Swati recalled, “I came to pick up some project materials for Astrobio, and these were specific to each person, so I had to tell [Mrs. Tehrani] my name, but she knew my name before I could even say something and that was just so amazing.”
Swati is also a student in Advanced Fashion, another class that requires material pick-up. As a result, she visits Mrs. Tehrani every few weeks: “Now when I go up to get stuff it’s always nice to see her and get to say hi.”
Regularly interacting with students is both a big change and a source of joy for Mrs. Tehrani: “I know all the kids in Astrobiology now, by name!” she laughed. Collaborating with teachers such as Mrs. Chambers, West High’s Astrobiology and Biology Honors teacher, has been an added bonus. Preparing hands-on projects for students to take home has been very enjoyable: “I feel like Mrs. Chambers is my favorite friend now!” Mrs. Tehrani expressed.
Even though few students are present on campus, Mrs. Tehrani is making new friends within West High’s community: both teachers and students.
Chapter 4: Reading Into the Future
Cozy armchairs welcome students upon arrival. Books of all shapes, sizes, and genres sit packed like sardines on wooden floor-to-ceiling shelves. This is the vision that Mrs. Tehrani and Mrs. Puccio have imagined for West High’s library.
Mrs. Tehrani explained their main purpose: “We’re trying to turn it into a bookstore kind of atmosphere.” To create a peaceful, comfortable ambiance, they “were looking at armchairs to buy and [to] just decorate the library so it kind of looks a little more Barnes & Noble-y.”
Once the campus gradually reopens, Mrs. Tehrani is eager to have more students spend time in the library and look through its variety of literature. She emphasized that “reading is so amazing.” To further highlight the importance of books, new additions to the library’s environment can create a new hangout for students.
For now, Mrs. Tehrani’s bookstand at the textbook window will suffice. She is currently profiling 16 different books:
“We’re trying to showcase them so that [students] will want to take out some of the newer fiction that we have.” However, only about 12 to 15 students have checked out books.
The next time you visit the textbook window, take a look at the bookstand. As Mrs. Tehrani said, reading is “Netflix, it’s HBO Max, and it’s Apple [TV]+ all built into one.”
But most importantly, express gratitude to Mrs. Tehrani for the services she provides, the thoughtfulness she carries each day, and her spirit that shines bright.