East Allen County Schools teacher Pamela Fennell fielded a common question about the 2020-21 academic year: How did she feel about returning to school?
“Not only was I worried about the possibility of getting ill, but I was worried about how we, my students and I, would pull this off,” Fennell told The Journal Gazette in a questionnaire.
“My motto became, 'this may be the most challenging year I have ever had in my 30 years of teaching, but this may also be my most rewarding.' ”
Fennell is among 15 educators across Allen County who agreed to answer questions about what it's like to teach during the coronavirus pandemic.
Their answers illustrate the countless ways classrooms and teaching have changed since mid-March:
• A New Haven Intermediate School educator described the challenge of having to start the academic year teaching remotely from her kitchen because a relative tested positive for COVID-19.
• A Canterbury teacher wrote about the efforts to prevent spreading germs by keeping students and their belongings separate. Strategies are as detailed as labeling each crayon and marker with students' names.
• A Carroll High School science teacher summarized the three types of classrooms educators planned – a traditional classroom, a remote-learning classroom and a classroom supporting ill students or those quarantined.
• A Northwest Allen County Schools first grade teacher wrote about creating a classroom in her basement to prepare for leading a group of remote learners.
Despite the changes, teachers overwhelmingly agreed at least one element has stayed the same – students and their relationships with educators.
“I love my students,” Northrop High School teacher Lisa Clegg wrote. “Seeing them – even if it is every other day – is just as rewarding as always.”
“The kids come to school with a smile on their faces, and I know how important it is that they see me smiling, too,” EACS teacher Kelly Andrews said. “The students and families are counting on me to be there for them not just academically, but emotionally. I really have tried to keep things as close to normal as possible.”
“The second that students walked into the building for the first time this year, I felt energized and ready to be here,” Concordia Lutheran High School teacher Trevor Campbell wrote. “What hasn't changed is that energy found in the relationships being built, the interactions with colleagues and students, and the sense of purpose.”
Scott Lazoff, who teaches science at Summit Middle School, credited students for taking the unprecedented year in stride.
“They are absolute rock stars,” he said, “and are doing better at adapting to this new normal than I could have ever imagined.”
At a glance
This is the first part of a three-day series about what it's like to teach during the coronavirus pandemic.
• Today features questionnaires from seven veteran teachers and feedback from two educators who began new teaching jobs this fall.
• Monday and Tuesday will each feature feedback from four experienced teachers.