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The Lost Year: Setbacks & Successes for Teachers

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 6:20 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Tonight, we continue our series of special reports “The Lost Year: Setbacks & Successes,” -- this time with a focus on teachers.

“We have challenges when we have kids 100 percent,” said Justin Holmquest, Principal at New Prairie Middle School. “When you go to 100 percent virtual, it compounds the difficulty and you lose more kids because it’s hard to connect.”

“We’ve had to change how we teach completely,” said Brie Irey, a teacher at the middle school. “We’ve had to dive into this whole new world of technology to enhance our teaching and instruction.”

In a year unlike any other, teachers are using computers, iPads, even Tik Tok, as part of their teaching toolbox.

“We had to figure out how to get our kids interested in joining zoom,” Irey said.

Ben Murray, a graphic design teacher at Clay High School, found an innovative way to teach his students during the pandemic… creating YouTube videos.

Teacher’s aren’t just struggling to find new ways to keep students engaged, but handle wifi problems, connect with parents around the clock and juggle multiple classrooms.

“Our teachers are doing two jobs,” said Justin Heinold, Assistant Principal New Prairie Middle School. “How do I teach students at home and here effectively in my time frame? It’s been a real challenge.”

But this balancing act isn’t the only challenge teachers are facing.

“It’s been a challenge, I lost my grandmother to COVID,” Irey said. “I’ve seen my kiddos affected. We’ve had some hard times at our middle school.”

In a recent survey by the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, 28 percent of educators said the coronavirus had made them more likely to leave teaching or retire early.

In a survey in Indiana this fall, 72 percent of school districts said the pandemic had worsened school staffing problems.

“Our teachers were feeling really burnt out,” Vice Principal Heinold said.

New Prairie Administrators created time throughout the day for teachers to practice mediation and workout to manage the increasing stress.

“It’s important to take care of teachers because they take care of our kids,” Heinold said.

“We can’t control what is happening with Covid or our government’s response, but we can control what we do here at our middle school,” Holmquest said.

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