The 2020-2021 school year has been a roller-coaster of five months with students and teachers learning to work through a global pandemic. From March 18, 2020 until now, times have been anything but normal with the McNicholas High School community. A vital part of making this school year a success has been the teachers. Without their flexibility and patience, who knows where we would be.
“The constant shifting from one day to the next [has been difficult]. One day a student is present, the next he/she is online. It’s also frustrating having to constantly remind online learners to turn on their cameras. I know there are many distractions for them at home, and I’m not able to monitor those. Trying to keep them engaged and feeling part of the class is a struggle. Many times when I try to call on them to participate, they weren’t following along and it slows the rest of the class down,” math teacher Ashley Brothers said.
Another major difference is that some teachers are now teaching from home.
Theology teacher Jeff Hutchinson-Smyth shared some of the differences he’s faced throughout this year. “I have taught across the hall from John Norman and Sam Roflow for the entirety of my 20 years of teaching at McNick. I miss their companionship in the day-to-day of it all, and I miss just the little spontaneous conversations and connections that happen in between classes,” Hutchinson-Smyth said.
With cases rising and technology changing, teachers have had to adjust on the fly, not only for themselves, but helping students along the way.
Social studies teacher Todd Naumann not only has had to adjust to all the different rules and regulations with COVID, but he’s also in his first year as a teacher at McNick coming over from Moeller. Although things have been difficult, Naumann has found personal growth, along with seeing his student’s growth, as well. “Being patient in a time that could cause you to be impatient… keep priorities in order and don’t get bothered by things that really don’t matter,” Naumann said.
As difficult as the pandemic has been, Latin teacher Paul Romolo, has found positive things to focus on. “COVID has made me realize what is and what isn’t really valuable. Spending time with my family and building those relationships has been a blessing. Likewise, just being in the building and seeing you all is a gift, especially after last spring,” Romolo said.
During a crisis like this, much can be learned about each other, but also about ourselves. Success that we thought would never be possible, has come to fruition. One common theme throughout all of the responses garnered in the survey of teachers is resilience.
“We are resilient,” math teacher Bill Losekamp said.
Librarian Chelsea Almer added, “We are resilient and flexible.”
Resiliency has been a key component to making this school year work. The McNick teachers have shown their resiliency, among many other things.
Theology teacher Teresa Davis shared, “I am old but can learn new things and try new ways/approaches to teaching; I found I needed to forgive myself and be more gentle with myself. Teachers are essential.”
Another issue many teachers faced was the challenge of being prepared, and ready to tackle such a daunting task that quite frankly, no one ever saw coming.
“I don’t think anyone ever imagined this. I think I am fortunate that I’m a little more familiar and comfortable with technology because of my age, and I was a math and computer science major. I give a lot of credit to some of our older faculty who didn’t have this technology training when they were in school. It’s a field that changes so fast. There’s a lot out there and it can be overwhelming. I want to give Mrs. Materna a shout out because she did a great job informing us of different resources we could explore to help facilitate online learning. She was so patient and kind, and was able to help teachers coming from multiple levels of comfort with technology,” Brothers said.
Science teacher Regina Goines opened about the challenges of trying to be prepared for such a difficult time for all. “I have been teaching for 37 years. COVID is just one thing in a long line of ‘new’ stuff that I have had to adjust to. Some of the others are technology related, and challenged me more than others. What is different about COVID is that it has an impact on everyone. No one is able to go on as before. No, I was not prepared, and I still feel unprepared for some aspects, but as always, we will do our best and it will work out,” Goines said.
Jeanne Daly, who is a part of the SAIL program at McNick, shared a similar sentiment with the entire school, “I can’t wait until we can return to school without masks.”
Although McNick and the entire school community has faced insurmountable circumstances throughout almost an entire calendar year, the school, specifically the teachers, have handled the adversity and difficult circumstances in an admirable way. Theology teacher John Norman, who has taught the entire year remotely from home, was able to sum up the challenges of taking on COVID as a school community. “MHS is an amazing community of compassionate and skilled staff working with students who are flexible and hard working. We are all trying to stay healthy, physically and mentally, but it is not easy. We need one another. We need our supportive families. And we need to cultivate our daily relationship with the Lord, who gives us the strength to walk in the difficulties and challenges of life.”
Theology teacher Teresa Davis teaches class in two separate rooms due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “My biggest improvement this year has been feeling more competent in 2 rooms and moving forward in academics and doing what I can to get students engaged in clubs,” Davis said.