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Even In Ever-Changing Time Of COVID, An Evanston School's Dedication To Brighter Days Never Wavers

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) -- This next story was born out of an email Marie Saavedra recently received from one of her former teachers.

Education in the time of COVID is a world away from what her grade school experience was, but on a visit back to the school, she found the impact a dedicated staff can make has stayed the same.

It's a frigid weekday morning, but you wouldn't know it in the parking lot of Pope John XXIII School in Evanston.

The only thing brighter than the sun are the voices of bundled-up students and their principal, Dr. Molly Cinnamon, dedicated to making it a good day.

Once the bell rings, it is a race up the stairs, to classrooms and coatrooms, to be in your seats for the morning announcements.

It all feels very familiar, because Saavedra was a student there too. She spent kindergarten through 8th grade at Pope John XXIII, and still has all the old pictures to prove it.

It's amazing how these halls look like they haven't changed a bit, at a time when everything has changed.

"You look and you see, like, 'Man, I remember being maybe this tall enough to look at that,'" Cinnamon said.

Saavedra said she still remembers being excited to have her artwork hung up in school.

"Exactly, and those are the things that we're trying to really keep hold of, especially during all these times of change; to keep it as normal and as comforting as possible for our kids," Cinnamon said.

Cinnamon called her students resilient, because COVID has made things anything but normal.

"Last year, we were doing some kids at home, some kids here," she said.

Getting everyone back in-person has helped foster more community.

In a world where nothing feels certain, the staff have worked to make classrooms places that feel consistent and safe.

"I've never had teachers say to me, 'I can't, I won't, it's too hard,'" Cinnamon said.

If we're lucky enough, we have teachers whose impact stays with us. One of Saavedra's is her 8th grade teacher, Danielle Gumiran, who dug out the yearbook for their reunion.

"You are cool, nice hair, a good person, definitely a good runner," Gumiran read from the yearbook.

"I don't know who I paid off to write that, but that has not been true in the rest of my life, let me tell you," Saavedra said.

Gumiran has some 40 years in education under her belt, and through her work teaching history and civics, she is still shaping the minds of students.

"We are so proud of you and all of our students who have whatever kind of success that they have; if they're successful in their job, and they're productive citizens who serve, and that's what we want to do," she said.

Now there is this next generation to be proud of; eager and willing to learn, no matter what the world throws at them, with a future as bright as their voices.

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