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[Educator Network] Educators Reflect on the Last Year in 100 Words

[Educator Network] Educators Reflect on the Last Year in 100 Words

There are some moments we can use to punctuate our lifeline, and sort things into befores and afters. For me, some of those moments are full of joy, like my time in college or my time in the classroom, while others I am glad to behind me, like after Hurricane Katrina, or the 550 days my sister fought cancer. These episodes place all other events in perspective, and March 2020 is another asterisk. We have been taught to appreciate the fleeting moments in time. But most of us didn’t expect things to go on for this long. The fleeting moment has gone on and on and on.

There is a shifting line on what a person can manage. They say, ‘be flexible,’ they say ‘have grace.’ Here are some of the stories from our educators doing just that.

“This year has been a series of check boxes.

Check: teaching experience, stellar curriculum, engaging lessons, teaching with technology.

Uncheck: thinking experience matters, students in my room to engage, teaching the way I’m used to with technology.

Teaching as I knew it wasn’t the same, teaching as it is, is not ideal. I finally came to the realization that I needed to put aside my known and step into the world of survival, compassion and grace by focusing on what I can and making peace with what I can’t.”

- Heather M., Palm Springs Community Middle School, Palm Springs, FL


2020 was a year of transformation. The struggles of remote and hybrid teaching while challenging gave me the chance to innovate, grow, and change my instruction. Remote and hybrid learning has allowed me to experiment with new teaching styles and facilitation strategies to enrich students that have reached mastery and provide intervention for those who have not in a more efficient way using the tools I have gained through this experience. This year also allowed me to realize the true importance of taking care of my mental health, something that for so long I did not make a priority. The biggest lessons that I have learned from the past year is that I am able to adapt, my students will continue to amaze me, and that I am ready to take what I have learned and make the future of my classroom better!”

- Victoria H., Jackson Independent Schools, Jackson, KY


“COVID’s impact on my world. I am a teacher. I’ll add – I am a virtual teacher. Yes, I was already virtual before COVID hit and shut our schools down. My students shut down. I reached out to connect, to find out, ‘why?’ Their answers surprised me. Their thoughts ranged from, “If it doesn’t count, why do it?” to, “I don’t know what is happening around me.” Our students were struggling with this in their own way. My company asked me to step out of my classroom, my safe haven, my passion. For my 30+ year career, I promised myself that I would never leave the classroom; the kids are why I became a teacher. My leader shared these thoughts with me, and they have forever changed my life: “Think how many kids you will help if you help their teachers.” I did leave the classroom. I now support teachers in understanding the complexities of virtual education. We’ve got this! Let’s bring the kids back to loving school. In the virtual classroom, every child has the opportunity to sit in the front row, middle seat. Let’s get them there.”

- Diane M., EdOptions Academy, Pittsburg, PA


“As an educator, I went from a much-loved ELA teacher with hugs following me in the halls of my neighborhood school, to a much-loved virtual teacher, with smiles following me from Zoom class to Zoom class.

I left my brick-and-mortar school on Friday, March 13, 2020, thinking we would return the following Monday, only to close out the year without seeing my students or peers again. It was an abrupt end, and tears come to my eyes when I think of the students I didn't get to hug one more time. My advice to my January 2020 self would be to cherish every moment, happy and stressful, with those students, and to hold onto the smiles and hugs, for they will not last until May.

The strength that has been continually needed to navigate online learning and to persevere as a student and learning guide never fails to amaze me. For many, this is their first experience with virtual education, and they are getting up and tackling this challenge every single school day. I am so proud of how far all of my students have come since August.”

- Patty B., EdOptions Academy, Mandeville, LA


It is clear that the profession has been under pressure this year. Yet, so many educators are finding and using the silver lining of a year so unlike anything else. It has been of year of some frustration, more discovery, celebration, and ultimately transformation. It is a year to take what we have learned and apply it. It is an opportunity to build back better.

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Winnie O'Leary

Winnie O’Leary has spent over 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, school board member, a family advocate, special education teacher, curriculum writer and currently the Educator Initiatives Manager. Her experiences have allowed her to work with districts all over the country where she learns something new and exciting every day.