Sarah Parcak, a renowned space archaeologist from Maine, won the hearts of countless exhausted parents when she announced on Twitter that she was refusing to homeschool her son anymore during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We just wrote a hard email," she wrote at 7:57 a.m. Wednesday morning. "I told our son’s (lovely, kind, caring) teacher that, no, we will not be participating in her ‘virtual classroom,’ and that he was done with the 1st grade. We cannot cope with this insanity. Survival and protecting his well being come first.”
In a series of tweets, Parcak explained how both she and her husband work full-time, and that her son’s happiness "trumps crappy math worksheet management.”
Her thread of tweets quickly went viral and garnered thousands of likes and retweets.
We just wrote a hard email. I told our son’s (lovely, kind, caring) teacher that, no, we will not be participating in her “virtual classroom”, and that he was done with the 1st grade. We cannot cope with this insanity. Survival and protecting his well being come first.— Sarah Parcak (@indyfromspace) April 8, 2020
Then, less than 10 hours later, Parcak returned to Twitter to make another announcement: She’d been awarded a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship.
“Uh, I have news. I was just named a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, for my next book project (which was proposed *last September* so my crystal ball is LIT) Surviving Collapse: The Global History of Human Resilience," she tweeted at 5:44 p.m. "It’s been a day y’all. Feeling overwhelmed, grateful, and humbled.”
Just like her Twitter thread about her frustrations with homeschooling (which received more than 33,000 likes and 2,900 retweets), news of her Guggenheim Fellowship spread quickly through the Twitterverse, and she was showered with kind words of praise and congratulations.
The Bangor, Maine native is no stranger to the spotlight. As an archaeologist and Egyptologist, Parcak uses satellite images to search for lost sites of past civilizations and has described her work as if “Indiana Jones and Google Earth had a lovechild." She’s been a guest on the “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," her research has been featured on the BBC and PBS, and her TED talks have been viewed millions of times. In 2016, Parcak won a $1 million TED Prize.
Parcak is a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and serves as the founder and president of GlobalXplorer, a nonprofit online platform that uses crowdsourcing to analyze satellite images and “cutting edge technologies to protect and preserve cultural heritage.” She also co-directs the Joint Lisht Mission with Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, and she’s the author of “Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology” and “Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past."
Parcak’s tweets about homeschooling during a pandemic clearly resonated, as parents around the country attempt to oversee their children’s classwork while trying to hold onto their jobs. The challenges, especially for parents of young children, can be overwhelming.
“Obviously kids 10+ can cope better with independent work (sometimes)," she noted. "The littles cannot.”
With her new book, “Surviving Collapse: The Global History of Human Resilience," in the works, Parcak will have even more on her plate. It’s a fitting title, given the circumstances that we’re all living in today. After announcing the news of her fellowship, she followed up with a couple more tweets.
“I hope a lot of you who applied [for a Guggenheim Fellowship] also got great emails today," she wrote. “If you applied, keep applying. What is today. I don’t even know anymore.”
“Apparently now I need to write the book.”