In a year that has been unlike any other, teachers in the Hudson Valley discuss the turbulence that came with being an educator during a once-in-a-century pandemic.
For Teacher Appreciation Week, they are sharing their stories.
Emily Krieger, a health teacher in Dover High School, and Lisa Strieter, a second grade teacher at Stony Point Elementary School, had ups and downs throughout the year, especially during the beginning of the pandemic.
“Everything was done online, and that was all new to me,” said Strieter. “I had to learn new programs.”
It was especially challenging to teach third graders how to learn basic skills such as writing and reading remotely.
“I tried as much as possible to do less technology,” she said. “I felt that they were only in second grade. They still needed a pencil in their hand, they still needed to color and to cut. I tried to steer away from [technology]. I’m actually glad I did, because I don’t feel they regressed at all.”
For Krieger, communicating with her high school students virtually was also a challenge.
“I’m not getting to see the students,” she said. “You’re not getting feedback. As teachers, you thrive off of your students.”
Students at the school were not required to have their cameras on during remote sessions, so they didn’t have to share their home life with teachers. Still, other challenges arose during remote learning.
“You don’t have the time to get to know the kids on the other end,” she said. “They’re just icons that you’re staring at and talking to.”
As a health teacher, Krieger has incorporated current events into her curriculum. She and her students have talked about both the physical and mental impact of the pandemic, as well as the need for vital information from trusted sources online.
“It’s a lot of taking things that we’re learning and just taking time when something new comes out and talking about it,” she said.
Today, both Dover High School and Stony Point Elementary School are open for in-person learning. Both Krieger and Strieter have felt a sense of exhilaration at the slow but sure return to normal.
“There’s definitely a different vibe in the school,” said Krieger. “It kind of made school feel like school, again, as crazy as that sounds.”
Strieter described the first day that all 21 of her students were in a classroom together, which was two weeks ago.
“The kids were very excited,” she said. “I treated it like it was the first day of school.”
This return to semi-normalcy has capped off a year where Krieger states that teachers have been exhausted.
“We’re mentally exhausted, we’re physically exhausted,” she said. “We’re constantly in fight or flight.”
Strieter is grateful to have support from her students’ parents during such trying times.
“I have actually been very fortunate because I have an extremely supportive group of parents,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for more supportive parents. They ask me about me all the time. They’re always complimenting me and making me feel like so appreciated.”