Teachers reflect as challenging school year comes to a close

Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The school year is coming to a close, and for many students and parents it’s a sigh of relief after a different and challenging year. None of it would be possible, however, without all of the teachers who adapted to meet the needs of their students.

Teachers had to adjust to an entirely new education landscape this school year, and with that came uncertainty, frustration and long hours on Zoom calls. But some teachers said it was also a way to expand their teaching strategies.

Tara Reid, a seventh-grade life science teacher at Pike Road, said this year was a learning experience.

“While it may have been presented as a challenge, I feel like we made an opportunity out of it,” Reid said. “I feel like we were able to kind of use creative problem solving to take on any challenge we were presented.”

Pike Road allowed students the option to choose either face-to-face or virtual learning all year. Reid said the biggest challenge was making sure that she met the needs of her students learning virtually.

“I think for me it was just making sure those virtual learners had as wonderful of an experience as the traditional ones did,” Reid said.

As a science teacher, problem-solving came in handy. Reid said it wasn’t difficult for her to adapt to the dual teaching style, in part because their school’s format transitioned easily online.

“The way that we were able to accommodate the lessons, I felt like it was very user-friendly, and even the labs we would just perform them on Zoom,” Reid said. “For science courses we like to do a lot of hands on learning, so I was able to either modify lessons that were hands-on, or even leave supplies in the front office for virtual learners to pick those supplies up.”

For Kathy Madaris, a reading specialist at Dozier Elementary, this year was met with a list of challenges.

From health challenges among students, parents, faculty and staff, to the difficulty of relying on technology to connect with students.

“Teaching virtually and then face-to-face and then back virtually, and teaching virtually and face-to-face at the same time, that’s been a challenge for some of my teachers,” Madaris said.

MPS let students return in person for the last nine weeks, but Madaris said that was met with a lot of challenges for students. Some of them didn’t even know where their classrooms where.

“For some students it was their first day of the whole year or the first day of school of their whole life,” Madaris said. “That was a challenge, but they quickly learned and by the end of the week just like normal it became a habit.”

Madaris said academically it was hard to see some of her students struggle. She said it was hard to know if a student was grasping a concept through a computer screen.

“I love it when I see the light bulb come on and, you know, you can’t really see the lightbulb come on when they learn something virtually,” Madaris said.

Overall, the biggest upset for her was not being able to see her students in person, or see them interact with each other.

“I’m the one that greats them in the morning most of the time, and tells them goodbye at the end of the day, and I just miss all of that,” Madaris said.

But with the school year behind them, both teachers said they are looking forward to next year and the ability to recharge this summer.

“I think that it’s great to look forward towards normalcy, but I think hearing those lessons that we learned during this time is really essential too,” Reid said.

Neither Montgomery Public Schools nor Pike Road Schools have announced whether or not they will return entirely to in person learning next school year.

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