UWO alumni discuss teaching during pandemic

Andrew Hansen, News Writer

The UW Oshkosh Aspiring Educators Organization held a first-year teacher panel featuring three alumni who spoke about the realities they faced teaching amidst the COVID-19 pandemic this past Thursday.

“I originally imagined my classroom having a front area where kids could gather on a carpet and a back area for table space,” fifth grade teacher Andrew Mayer said. “There’s just very limited space now due to COVID, and there’s a lot of limited areas that kids can’t be touching within a certain timeframe.”

Sixth grade Social Studies teacher Sydney Huff says that when teaching in person, you have to be more cognizant than usual of students’ activities.

“We have to have all of our desks facing forward and we have to have a seating chart so that we know what kids are in close contact with each other,” Huff said.

All three of the teachers say their schools have since moved teaching to either an online or HyFlex model.

Huff says that moving classrooms online has brought with it several challenges.

“Our kids are struggling and the relationships they have with their teachers is the thing that is keeping them going,” Huff said. “We don’t know what’s going on behind those computer screens at home so those relationships with the kids is one of the most important things.”

Mayer says that moving online has made personal connections with students much more valuable.

“If you can somehow get the students to realise that what you’re teaching actually matters and it’s somehow relatable, I figured out that’s when I have the best engagement,” said Mayer. “Really students want to get to know their teacher.”

Third grade teacher Tianna Borchardt says that she has made it her goal to reach out to students’ parents at least once per month.

“I had a student that was struggling in math, but he worked hard and did phenomenally on his last test,” Borchardt said. “I called home right after school to tell his mom how proud I was of him.”

The nation’s top Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday that in spite of the uptick of coronavirus cases the U.S. is facing, in-person classes should be the “default position.”

The spread of COVID-19 “among children and from children is not really very big at all, not like one would have suspected,” Fauci said. “So let’s try to get the kids back.”