CHARLOTTE, N.C. – First-year teachers in North Carolina are doing their best to prepare for the upcoming school year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers in some school districts in the state will be doing a hybrid of in-person and remote learning. Others will be starting the year with virtual instruction only.
Adriana Gutierrez, with Teach for America, will teach chemistry at Vance High School in Charlotte.
“This is definitely a dream come true,” Gutierrez said.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher will begin her dream career in the middle of a pandemic.
“I’m extremely excited about the start of the school year. Things are very, very different and despite that, I have a very optimistic attitude. I really believe strongly in making lemonade out of lemons. I don’t think this is going to be a survive kind of year,” Gutierrez said.
CMS and other districts in the state, including Durham, Wake, and Cabarrus counties are starting the school year virtually.
To prepare, Gutierrez set up a space to teach from home.
“I’m doing a lot of research into how different digital tools can be used to make sure that I’m not just delivering instruction to students but also fostering learning so that they are getting an opportunity to communicate with each other, to work with each other,” Gutierrez said.
Brandon Moore, a first-year English teacher at West Cabarrus High School in Concord, is also looking forward to his first year of teaching.
“It’s just still exciting and an overwhelming moment. Not a million years would I ever thought I would be starting my teaching career off virtually,” Moore said.
The Cabarrus County Schools teacher plans to teach his virtual lessons from home and from his classroom at West Cabarrus High School.
“West Cabarrus High school is a newly built high school so I want to go at least one day a week so my students can see the inside and see the resources that the school has to offer in the classroom as well as the resources I will be able to use in instruction that are at school,” Moore said.
Moore is also in the process of researching tools that can help keep students engaged online.
“That’s the most important thing, learning is still going on even though we are in a pandemic. Even though our setting has changed as far how we deliver instruction, learning is still at the forefront of our minds,” Moore said.
Learning while keeping everyone healthy is a priority for first-year-teacher Khadasha Jones. She’ll be a second grade teacher at St. Stephens Elementary, which is part of Catawba County Schools.
Jones will be teaching both in-person and virtually.
“We’ve been doing a lot of planning, figuring out how to teach the kids the procedures to keep them safe, to keep everybody safe,” Jones said.
Jones will send videos to families with the expectations for each student this school year and will reiterate the same when she meets them.
“We are just going to teach them the different protocols, and the way to clean. If somebody feels sick, the procedures of what we need to do to get them where they need to be, in the isolation room, before they spread anything to all other kids,” Jones said.
Jones will also have fewer students in her classroom at a time to promote social distancing. She said having a reduced number of students for in-person instruction can be beneficial.
“You have more time to focus on those kids that need extra help,” Jones said.
Jones believes the safety protocols in place will keep everyone safe.
She’s now ready to tackle the school year even under unusual circumstances.
“I don’t think anyone really feels 100 percent prepared, but am I happy school is going to start Monday? Yes,” Jones said.
Gutierrez is also eager to teach.
“We are going to make the best of this, and it’s going to be a great year,” Gutierrez said.
A sentiment Moore also shares.
“I want to ensure parents and students that teachers have the ingenuity, the creativity, and the power to make this the best school year possible for students,” Moore said.
Some school districts plan to return to the classroom later this school year. Officials will take into consideration COVID-19 metrics to make that decision.