Teachers Reflect on Pandemic Instructional Successes

by EdCircuit Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has made a long year-and-a-half even longer in our schools, but educators nationwide have discovered numerous ways to succeed. Whether school was fully virtual dating back to March 2020, in a hybrid format, or if students eventually transitioned back into the brick-and-mortar classroom, teachers dealt with a shifting landscape and many new demands.

As we reflect on practices that have worked well, and take an opportunity to celebrate the successes that so many educators have experienced with their students, we asked some of the teachers named Extraordinary Educators by Curriculum Associates if they had a notable classroom success to share. Here’s what they said:

Meg Tegerdine, special education teacher at the Ackerman School in Florrisant, Missouri: 

I think the most notable success my classroom experienced during the past year was our ability to create a supportive classroom community given the various barriers that were in our path. Initially, our school year started with 100 percent virtual attendance. This meant that my students, who already struggle with their social/emotional/behavioral skills, had limited interactions not only with their teachers, but also with one another. 

I feel the greatest impact I have as a teacher is the relationships that I am able to build with my students and their families, and working virtually was both a gift and a challenge to those relationships. While we weren’t able to meet in person, I felt like I was constantly struggling to keep students engaged and build positive relationships, but my contact with families was continuous. I think this allowed us to become more involved with one another as a community in a way we might not have done in every other school year, which in turn created even more support for students. The best part of it all was that coming back to in-person learning didn’t change those relationships; they grew stronger. Because we had to rely so heavily on verbal communication, our classroom’s overall communication and problem-solving ability grew stronger. I am so incredibly proud of the work we did together. 

Melinda Geer, 3rd grade teacher at Glenwood Elementary School in Kentwood, Michigan: 

Success during the pandemic? Each day was a success. I was not given a plan or trained on how to teach during a school shutdown and reopening with so many limitations. But I was trained to be flexible, to be able to think on my feet, and to make changes as needed. Teachers adapt and modify their teaching based on student need, and my students needed me, their teacher. 

A notable success I had this year was teaching 27 3rd grade students virtually, who did not have an assigned teacher yet,  while teaching my 18 3rd graders face-to-face. I wasn’t given a plan or a schedule for this format, just a challenge I took on. 

Each day was a challenge within itself. Network issues, headphones not working, late students, students needing extra help both online and face-to-face. So instead of focusing on the problems, I started to focus on the students and what was in my control. 

I used Google Classroom and Zoom, created a detailed schedule with lots of movement and brain breaks and got to know my kids. 

Those two weeks were extremely challenging but extremely successful. I spent much more time than a “normal” school year on building relationships and getting to know what my students’ needs were both academically and emotionally.

“We don’t grow when things are easy. We grow when we face challenges.” 

Ann McCall Salway, 3rd grade teacher at Abner Creek Elementary in Duncan, South Carolina: 

This past school year evolved over time from something of great fear to something of empowerment. What started with many challenges for parents, teachers, and students turned into a great sense of accomplishment for all.  And I have to give credit to i-Ready as an instructional tool that meant a lot to our success.

I have always prided myself as an innovative teacher and have used multiple resources through the years. Trying to engage students during the pandemic proposed uncertain situations, however. My 3rd grade students generally come to the classroom each year with very little technological skills and knowledge. Because of this, the beginning of the school year normally starts with lessons to teach students how to use platforms and basic navigation skills of the computer. During this pandemic year, I did not have that luxury. I was forced with the task of finding a way to remotely teach the students how to use technology so that they could learn the standards within our curriculum. Fortunately, the students were familiar with the i-Ready program that our district had already adopted. I have always liked this tool, but I never utilized its full capabilities. As I explored its capabilities more deeply, I was able to teach, differentiate, and track data while engaging the students along the way. I am proud to report that 100 percent of my students reached their stretch goal in math and 90 percent reached their reading stretch goal. I will be forever grateful for the way i-Ready supported my students during this challenging year.

Shane Twamley, language arts teacher at Kraemer Middle School in Placentia, California: 

This past year was a huge challenge, but I was pleased with the efforts my district made to help our students bridge the digital gap, particularly by supporting students in need of Wi-Fi. Our students were all guaranteed Wi-Fi access with a hotspot and laptop. For some learners, this was a first for them and their families. In this day and age, students are increasingly in need of internet access at home and not just school. This ignited a fire for some of my students who took advantage of this and grew three to four years in their literacy by jumping on i-Ready of their own accord.

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