SALT LAKE CITY — Every fall, many brand-new teachers join the ranks in Utah’s classrooms. But this year, those first-time educators, interns and student-teachers are beginning their careers in a pandemic.
They’ve been studying and preparing how to be a teacher for years, but it seems like most of their focus will be taken up with things that aren’t teaching.
“It’s crazy and nerve-wracking, said DeeAnn Evans, an incoming junior high teacher in the Davis School District. “There are a lot of new guidelines, and helping teens keep masks on their face — junior high may have a hard time with that. They may understand why, but it is not easy.”
“With the kids, I am so worried about them and their masks and how that will work,” agreed Taylon Mann, who will be teaching fourth grade as an intern in the Nebo School District. “As a kid I can just imagine there will be issues.”
Listen: First-year teachers talk about starting their career in a pandemic
But Evans says she is glad for the governor’s mask requirement for schools. She feels better about going back to teaching around 30 students at a time.
Mann says a lot of the things he prepared for are now up in the air. They’ll also have to work around new social distancing guidelines, restricted hallway and lunchroom rules, cleaning requirements and so much more that goes beyond teaching the material.
“I think one of my main concerns is will I be able to come through with all the expectations that are new, but at same time, I feel like most other teachers are in the same position,” he said.
Elpitha Gamvroulas will be teaching high school in the Granite School District.
“As we re-imagine “normal” we are bound to be given more curve-balls, but I truly believe teachers will come out of this stronger and more prepared to help students,” she said.
Gamvroulas says she has spent hours in quarantine adjusting her lessons, and is looking forward to being with her students again.
“The best part of teaching is the connection we can make with our students. The opportunity to share our experiences of growth and struggle is truly a blessing,” she said.
Chamy Halliday student-taught in the Salt Lake City School District on the west side last year, and will be in the Davis School District this coming year.
“I am fully aware of the situations that so many kids have been in since the middle of March. I’d wear a mask all day, every day, if it meant that kids have a safe place for 7 hours a day again,” said Halliday.
Evans says there will be gaps with the school closures in the spring. She knows it was really hard for a lot of students. But she is confident in her district’s plan to re-open safely.
“Our administration has been really great about talking to us and answering questions, and they are doing everything they can to help us create a safe environment. They have been transparent with their plans, and I’ve really appreciated that as a first-year teacher,” said Evans.
But Halliday raised concerns, saying she doesn’t feel like any of the plans she has read have enough action in them.
Mann says he’s not worried about getting coronavirus, because he is young and healthy. He does worry about having enough time-off if he is told to quarantine or self-isolate. He only has so many days as a first-year teacher.
“I’ve mentioned this to my team lead, and she said our principal has mentioned we are protected under the law. I would not be fired or receive penalty,” he said.
Halliday says she is worried about what would happen if they are forced to suddenly go all online or remote again.
“I know how to make a canvas course, I know how to use technology IN my classroom, but I don’t know how to make videos that I know at least 80% of the kids can be successful with. I’ve heard the frustration of parents because teachers didn’t know how to do the “emergency learning” that came last spring,” said Halliday.
But in general, these teachers say they are prepared for any changes that could happen during the school year. They feel ready to prove themselves and be there for their students.
“As a new teacher, I feel lucky to have my job and understand that my impact is necessary now more than ever for so many students. Rather than feeling unmotivated or disenchanted, I feel compelled to show up for my students,” said Gamvroulas.
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