By Kyler Helvey and Jackson White
Not only have a number of students been forced to attend school virtually, but some teachers have as well. Due to circumstances of dealing with the pandemic, teachers John Norman (Theology), Sam Roflow (Theology), Tracey Canisalez (Spanish), and Bea Gardner (Photography, Yearbook, Mixed Media) have been teaching from remotely from their homes since school started in August. All remote teachers returned to teaching in person on March 29.
As one could expect, coming back to school, not just for students, but for teachers as well, brings a great deal of excitement. For these teachers, who have been out of the building for over a full year, extremely excited might be an understatement.
“Being able to collaborate in person with CREW, and my Photo and Yearbook students again has been the most exciting part for me,” Gardner shared.
“Obviously, the most exciting part of coming back is seeing my students, current and past. It’s been a year and it is awesome to be able to be back and be in the building with them,” Roflow said.
Norman, like Roflow, is also a theology teacher and with this being his last year teaching before heading into retirement, having the opportunity to be back in the building was emotional for him. “I could not sleep the night before my first day back. I was so excited. And then when I returned I was greeted by such a warm, loving welcome from my colleagues and my students. And the Butterfly-balloon that was put outside my door was so beautiful and so rich in symbolism of a new day…the resurrection of Jesus,” Norman said.
Gardner shared many of the same emotions. “I was excitedly happy and a bit teary eyed to have the chance to be back here, I really missed this place,” she said.
Roflow, however, was caught with a different side of emotions then Gardner. “I felt strange when I had first gotten back. Someone was in my parking place, I forgot my lanyard and had to knock on the door to get in, and I was constantly going the ‘wrong way’ in the hallways, due to the one-way hallways now,” Roflow said.
“I have learned throughout the last of year of COVID-19 that MHS is a wonderful community of faith, love, support and education. But I always have known this to be true about this place and about the people who are involved here,” Norman said.
“The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that seeing smiling faces and seeing my students’ bright eyes in person, is more emotionally fulfilling than seeing smiling faces and bright eyes over the computer. And the fact that my second semester students are even more amazing in person,” Gardner said.
Roflow said the reactions from the students have been the best part about returning. “The students have been awesome. My current students have been great. I received many, many visits from former students, and I had to remind some about the social distancing. One student flew down the hall like a bullet, jumped on me, yelled my name, and sprinted back down the hall. He was moving so fast I just recently found out it was Matt Mitchell from last semester. Even though I didn’t have time to remind him of the social distancing, it made my day,” Roflow said.
“My students have treated me with kindness. They’re as thoughtful and sweet in person, as I remember them being. I’ve been on the receiving end of many smiles and welcome backs…. as well as some outstandingly delish, gluten free, ‘death by chocolate’ cookies,” Gardner said.
“When we teach remotely, of course, we all do our best. We try to be as creative as possible so that our lessons are valuable and interesting. This past year has been hard on so many. My personal sacrifices have been small compared to the sacrifices of many others. Daily prayer, walking with the Lord, has been my source of strength during this COVID year. St. Ignatius encouraged us to ‘find God in all things.’ And that applies to a COVID year. How do we ‘see’ the Lord in times of difficulty, stress and hardship? We can be certain of this, that the Lord is always present, we are always in the Divine Presence,” Norman shared.
“I want to say ‘thank you’ to the administration, faculty, staff, and students of McNick. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m so grateful for having been given the opportunity to keep my family safe by way of ‘teaching from home’ this year. That being said, I’m thrilled to be back,” Gardner said.
“My reason for teaching remote is that I was trying to protect my wife who is mentally and physically disabled. When I left the first morning back, she started to cry. I shared that with my daughter and Jess reminded me that I have been with my wife 24/7 for a whole year. Then I felt guilty for leaving. I had such mixed feelings that first day coming back,” Roflow said.
“I missed seeing my friends and students. I missed having lunch with my friends. I missed talking and laughing with my colleagues and students,” Norman said. On Monday, March 29, the teachers who had been teaching remotely returned to their classrooms for in-person instruction. The Theology Department marked the occasion with a photo of their department, the first time they had all been together in their hallway in over a year.