Marisa Alborn
Local News

Back to School 2021: Teachers offer their perspectives on the 2020-21 school year

Much has been said and written about the past school year – the work with remote learning, COVID-19 restrictions, a part-time return to school this past spring.

To get a sense of what all this meant for teachers, the Chronicle solicited responses to three questions from teachers in District 153. Answers have been edited for space restrictions.
 
1) What was the one thing you personally learned teaching during the pandemic year?
“During the pandemic, the resiliency of teachers and students was profound. Prior to March 2020, the word ‘zoom’ meant something completely different than the verb and noun it is today. All teachers had to quickly learn how to deliver focused, concise and engaging lessons through a platform they have never used before. I am impressed with the creativity that I have seen.” 
Jen Wolf, 6th grade teacher, James Hart School
 
“I learned that school, whether it’s gathering online or in a classroom, is needed for the well-being of everyone in a community.” 
Chris Kovarik, 4th grade teacher, Churchill School 
 

Marisa Alborn

“I learned that teaching can happen in any format…My absolute favorite thing about teaching is getting to know the students and my fear was that remote teaching would make this impossible. I was wrong. My co-teacher and I made great connections with our students and probably on a deeper level than we have in the past because of the circumstances. Many students were more open to sharing because they were starving for interaction during this pandemic.” 
Marisa Alborn, 3rd grade co-teacher, Churchill School
 
“Last year taught me how resilient people are. I saw children, parents, teachers and administrators rise up to meet a challenging situation. It was not an easy process; some tough decisions were made given state mandates and our thoughts about how to best serve students. Through thoughtful conversations, we created a collective spirit of perseverance. In the end, our students did learn in a unique school year.” 
Nathalie Mingo, Willow School, Reading Interventionist
 
“There were many things I learned teaching over the past year. The most important thing I learned was how to overcome adversity. I believe the pandemic taught us all that we can not give up when things get tough. All teachers were required to adapt to the new circumstances the pandemic presented, and as a result we all learned new ways to deliver instruction, interact with students, and keep students engaged.” 
Michael Klein, 8th grade social studies teacher, James Hart School
 
2) What is your wish for the 2021-22 school year?
 My wish for the 2021-22 school year is that we remember that we have to not only focus on our students’ academic well-being, but their social and emotional well-being as well.  I think taking time to truly understand where students are at will be crucial to easing the transition back to full time school that they have not experienced since March 2020.”
Jen Wolf
 
“My wish for the 2021-2022 school year is to bring joy and excitement back into teaching and learning. Teachers and students missed out on so many of the opportunities to connect, form relationships and build social-emotional skills. We tried our best to do so through a screen, but it’s nothing like having kids back in the classroom. I can’t wait!”
Liz Binnendyk, 6th grade teacher and team leader, James Hart School
 
3) Your relocation to home changed the classroom dynamic last year, but I believe your workload increased. How did COVID force you to adjust as a teacher?
“They say technology makes things faster but what teachers discovered is that a worksheet that took seconds to deliver in the traditional classroom took sometimes hours to prepare on Zoom. This forced me to have a different level of patience. The experience was a complete adjustment, but moving forward it has taught me new skills that will be forever valuable.” 
Marisa Alborn
 
“I am thankful that D153 allowed staff to work in the building if it was better for student learning. I made the decision to teach from the classroom daily. This allowed me to have access to the smart board, among other things, as well as ensure my own internet connection was stable enough to teach without interruption.”
Ashley Daniels-Evans, 5th grade teacher, Churchill School
 

MIchael Klein

“I strongly believe all of the work has made me better at my job. I now have many new ways to engage students through the use of technology. This will make my classroom more effective in the future.” 
Michael Klein
 
“My workload overwhelmingly increased working from home this past year… Here’s what helped get me through: 

  • My family: They were wonderful and helped pick up daily tasks I couldn’t get to, give me pep talks and allow me to convert one of our rooms into my classroom at home to make this transition a bit easier.
  • My Students: Seeing those kids’ smiling faces each morning helped get through this experience.
  • The Families: The wonderful emails and messages I would receive; as well as assistance they would give their student and me. The year wouldn’t have been as successful without their support.
  • My Amazing Second Grade Team and colleagues I’d worked with daily: We all came together to support each other in any way we needed. The collaboration and listening ear were what got me through. During this time, we all learned resilience. Going through all of this only showed us how strong we are and how we can get through anything. This experience has taught me that all of us can get through anything with the help, kindness and compassion of others.

Finally, having this summer to take time to relax and decompress, look back and admire all that I’ve accomplished has helped to get me ready to begin this new upcoming year.
Christen Vazquez,  2nd grade teacher, Willow School
 
Please share any fun anecdotes.
“My 4th graders really bonded as a second family during this modified school year, and instead of making it a priority to cover all the subjects each day, we made sure to joke, laugh and be sarcastic every time we met.”
Chris Kovarik

“One day a student remarked at the end of our lesson: ‘You seem to be a geek. Look behind you; I see Baby Yoda!’  We preceded to have a short Star Wars discussion. It touched my heart because I seek to know my students as people first and that child saw me as a person in that moment as a self-professed geek. I can talk to my kids about Star Wars, Marvel, etc. more than my teaching peers.”
Nathalie Mingo

“The fun of online learning, I got to meet lots of siblings and pets!” 
Liz Binnendyk

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