First Year Teachers Take Control Of Covid


Hope Moore, Assignment Editor

When the first day of school arrived it all looked a little different. Instead of racing to class after hearing the school bells ring, students and teachers opened their laptop to the same familiar page each morning. A google meet. Half asleep and still in bed, many teachers found it hard to interact with their students on a personal level. However, they never lost sight of what was important and found many positives came with this unique experience. 

As the school year progressed teaching online became a little easier for everyone. The students grew accustomed to the routine and the experienced teachers found the best way to effectively teach their classes. But what about the first year teachers? This experience has been quite special for Isabelle Allison, the APUSH and US History teacher, and Jenna Trank,  the Spanish teacher, for completely different reasons. 

This is Allison’s first year teaching and a COVID school year is not how she planned her initial year of teaching to be. Nevertheless she kept a positive attitude on her situation and found this experience to be quite thrilling with new bumps around every corner. 

“Other teachers always say that your first five years of teaching or even three years of teaching are so hard, and that’s where you really establish your bases, but teaching plus COVID has all types of new crazy things, and it’s gone a lot better than I thought it would,” Allison said. 

Mid way through the first quarter students were allowed to be back in person, however that didn’t mean Covid was completely gone. While Allison was teaching in person she found out that she came in contact with one of her students who had Covid. She was forced to quarantine at her house while continuing to teach to both in person and online students from her own home. 

“This situation was very weird. It was one thing when all students were online and we were all trying to navigate this together, but when I was at home I missed not being there with them. But I still found ways to connect with my students and make everything work,” Allison said.

Teachers are told to make their own lesson plans with the information they are required to teach, however in this situation it has been a lot harder to keep a strict lesson plan each week.

“[lesson plans are being changed] constantly, I think that is what I spend most of my time doing, just like tweeking and altering instructions, like I spend all night writing this lesson plan only to realize in my first period, I need to change something to fit for online students or vise versa,” Allison said, “So I will take a couple minutes editing, and it’s definitely doable, you just have to think about every aspect and every single lesson plan.” 

Throughout the school year so far, it has been very important to Allison that she stayed focused on the positives, and the opportunities, and the challenges in order to be the best teacher she could possibly be.

“I think this year has taught me and other teachers to be a lot more reflective. People think more about how they speak to each other, how you’re assigning things and why, and I’ve had to be more hyper aware and creative as well,” Allison said. 

Unlike Allison, this is not Trank’s first year teaching. She had previously taught in Illinois for 14 years before becoming a mother and taking a 5 year break. She moved states and came to live in Arizona where she applied for a job at Combs. Trank was not familiar with any Covid teachings because this is her first year teaching at Combs. Her worries looked a little different from Allison’s.

“I had two big worries: One was I taught at the same school district all 14 years and the communities were the same. I loved my job, the community, the families, and was very happy. But I was worried about finding that happiness again, that community, and that feeling of comfort, and feeling a part of a family,” Trank said, “ And my number two fear was more of being a mom. I wasn’t working before, but now I have a daughter, and I work, and I didn’t know how that was going to work.”

As Trank’s first year back continued she grew more and more confident and started to get back into her flow as a teacher. She very quickly felt at home at Combs and a lot of those previous worries subsided. Unlike other teachers, Trank found that starting online actually helped her and gave her a strict schedule that she had to follow that made her feel very comfortable and on track.

On September 8 when the students came back to in-person learning, Trank described it as fantastic. She loved seeing all of the students and getting to know their personalities a little bit more. 

“ It was fantastic to have students in the building. I think [connecting with students] it is what you make of it, I feel like I have made some good connections virtually,  but that is because they always have their camera on and they talk to me and they continue to participate and communicate with me,” Trank said, “Obviously it is a lot easier in-person to talk to those student who might be a little shyer or introverted.”

Like Allison, Trank also found this whole situation to be quite reflective of personal character and mannerisms. Trank gave an example that when you are in the classroom it is easy to turn your back and roll your eyes, or mutter something under your breath when things aren’t going quite to plan. However, online you are always on the camera, everyone can see what you are doing, how you are acting, and if you are paying attention or not. She said she thinks in some ways this can be really good because it allows you to really think about your actions and how it might affect the way someone views you or the respect they have for you. 

Despite a few differences in these teachers , both Trank and Allison strive to keep their students’ mental health, home situations, and ability to learn priority. 

“I am saddened by how much it affects some students because they have to be home to protect them or their families, but this is not optimal learning, for everyone, some students really need that personal interaction, so they are struggling or failing and that’s what’s sad because I can’t do anything about it because they are at home.” Trank said.   

“I have gotten plenty of emails from students saying that this whole situation has affected their depression, anxiety, and stress, and I really do appreciate them communicating that with me because I want to support you guys. That has definitely been one of the hardest parts for me, seeing how hard it has been for you because I can’t even imagine what it must be like,” Allison said.  

Nearing the end of the first semester both teachers have found their comfort zones and are doing their best with the cards they have been dealt. Although this new year of teaching has brought along many bumps in the road, neither one failed to keep their head up and focus on the future.