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Teacher overcomes obstacles teaching students, her own children

A classroom set up for COVID-19 precautions

Katie Smith, 1st Grade Teacher, Timber Sage Elementary School

Q. As an educator, how has COVID-19 impacted you and the way you perform your job?
A.  COVID-19 has greatly impacted the way I do my daily job. As a first grade teacher, I always strive to give my students daily opportunities for hands-on learning, develop social skills including conflict resolution strategies, incorporate movement into learning, differentiate instruction and build collaboration skills. In March, this was all taken away in a blink of an eye. As an educator, I had to find ways to make learning meaningful to my students.

Q. What has been the hardest challenge you have faced or obstacle you have overcome?
A. One of the hardest challenges I have had to overcome was educating not only my students but also my own children. I would spend hours a day planning with my colleagues and doing individual video conferences with my students and then my own children would be left on their own or I would be out of energy from planning lessons. After a few weeks, I was able to find a balance between the two. My first grade team was amazing and we actually decided to do planning sessions on Monday evenings after children went to bed. It made for some late nights but so worth it because I was able to give my attention and energy to my career and family. 

Pre-COVID classroom

Q. From your perspective, what is something positive that has resulted from this pandemic so far?
A.
For me, something positive that has resulted from this pandemic is how much I have learned and grown as an educator. I am in my 13th year in education and sometimes teachers can get stuck in a rut and do things as they have always been done. During the pandemic, I have had to adapt and change -- there was no way around it. Learning how to hold virtual meetings, creating video lessons, collaborating online with peers in other schools are just a few of the many things I have learned. These changes were difficult and challenging, but have had a lasting positive impact on me. 

Q. What are you anticipating as you look ahead?
A. As I look ahead, I am anticipating a school year like none other. It will be filled with many ups and downs. I am excited to be a pioneer in this adventure of how to navigate the possibility of remote learning for some weeks and in person learning other weeks. I entered the teaching profession to make a difference in the lives of children, and even though it may look a little different, I am ready to help my students be successful. 

Q. From the work you have done over the past few months, of what are you the proudest?
A.
 I am most proud of the teaching profession as a whole over these past few months. As a collective group, educators were able to switch to some form of distance learning in a heartbeat while also being a support system for students and their families. The amount of time and energy that was poured into making sure students were safe makes me proud. Even when we were scared and anxious about all that was happening, we were able to be a calming place. Teachers are resilient and natural problem solvers, and I am so proud the world is getting a chance to see how truly valuable we are. 

Q. What is something you value more now compared to pre-pandemic?
A. I value the little things in life a lot more. The pandemic has helped me slow my life down and spend quality time with my children, family and friends. Instead of saying “I have to do something” I am now able to view it as “I get to do this!”