The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) has spent the past few months discussing the return to in-person learning, and has encouraged districts across the nation to seek out testimonials from parents, teachers, school officials, and community members sharing their positive experiences – in both virtual and in-person environments. The following is one such “back-to-school success story” from Henderson County Public Schools.
Alicia Lyda, 7th grade ELA teacher
Apple Valley Middle School
As a teacher who is still at the original school where she was hired 25 years ago, I never understood why people might change jobs. I would often ask why they might be moving schools or changing positions and the answer was always similar: “I want a new challenge.” My response was to shrug and wish them the best on their new journey.
Teaching middle school has always been enough of a challenge to me. Middle school teachers never know what we might find when walking into the classroom. Students at this age are going through so much socially and emotionally, that sometimes every minute is a new challenge. One minute, students are focused on adult issues, engaged in conversation discussing many possible solutions that might capture the attention of policy makers at any level. And the next? Well, I’ll just say that nothing much surprises me anymore.
However, with the advent of COVID-19, I now understand maybe a bit of what my colleagues who wanted a new challenge were trying to express. The year 2020 has been a new adventure for all of us. This year has brought on new ideas, new changes, new ways of thinking and new ways of doing. Prior to this, my school was just talking about becoming a 1:1 school and then, in the middle of March 2020, we instantly became one. What an adventure!
For me, I got to see the excitement of starting at a “new school” because, effectively, overnight we all became brand new teachers in a new environment. No longer could we come in confident that something was going to run successfully, because chances were, we had no idea. We were just hoping that everything would work out. That we would survive this day and live to create something new again tomorrow. And that was just with school. No one knew what to expect day in and day out as our local, state and national leaders were making decisions with the information they had.
At my school, central office and community levels, I have had support as we navigate these times. I decided to make this an experience in which we not only survive, but thrive, and it’s all about creating community. It always has been – COVID just adds a new layer of adventure.
Starting this adventure virtually was bumpy at first. This is a whole different level of teaching. I really had to reflect and focus on my students and our curriculum goals. And, I had to slow down. Live, virtual education is much slower-paced than the in-person classroom experience. But my students were patient, constructive and so excited to be back. It was a steep learning curve, but we faced it together. Our students have accepted this challenge and are excelling. We have asked them to take on a level of personal responsibility like never before, and they are succeeding!
While this experience has brought on new stressors, additional challenges, and different expectations, I am a better teacher. This new adventure has created a new excitement in my teaching and my learning. It has invigorated me, challenged me, inspired me to be the best I can be for my students, my school, and my community. I am so glad that 25 years into my teaching career, I can still say I love my job.
If you’re an HCPS student, parent/guardian, or educator and want to share your positive 2020 story, please email Molly McGowan Gorsuch at email@example.com.