This guest post was submitted by the following teachers: Dean Aamodt, Wahpeton; Melessa Bosch, Minot; Jessica Brandt, Central Cass; Dr. Karyn Chiapella, Scranton; Nanci Dauwen, West Fargo; Kayla Dornfeld, Mapleton; Mary Eldredge Sandbo, Des Lacs; Andrea Fox, West Fargo; Lynae Holmen, Minot; Linda Hope, Langdon; Annette Hovey, New Rockford; Leah Juelke, Fargo; Julia Koble, Minot; Sara Medalen, Minot; Amy Neal, Minot; Debra Nelson, Bottineau; Marlene Srock, retired, Minot; Melissa Stanley, Minot; Fred P. Strand, Mayville State University; Heather Tomlin-Rohr, Jamestown; Brenda Tufte, Bismarck; Karen Toavs, Williston; David Volk, Fargo
The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting all of us with unforeseen challenges. As members of the North Dakota State Teacher of the Year Chapter, we feel compelled to share our perspectives. Guided by love for our students and pride in the teaching profession, we are focusing on a statement made by Sara Medalen, the 2020 State Teacher of the Year, who was interviewed in a recent news story. While handing out lunches to students in Minot, Medalen said, “We really are all in this together.” We know it is true. We will get through this challenging time… together.
As our classrooms suddenly are without walls, educators are innovating at a speed unseen in most industries. We feel pressure to “do it right” and to make the transition to distance learning as seamless as possible. We are aware that every family situation is unique, and every student has individual interests, strengths, and struggles. We understand that students and parents may be apprehensive about how this will work. Our students are on a journey of learning, and it is our life’s work to guide them. For us, it’s heartbreaking to have limited contact with students when our classrooms are empty. We know the human connections in our classrooms are crucial to a well-rounded education, and even with so many cancellations disrupting our days, those connections will not be canceled. Academics and positive relationships will continue as educators seek innovative strategies to maintain both.
It isn’t just teachers who are looking for ways to support our students. We are heartened by the ways that food service personnel, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, custodians, counselors, and administrators across the state are working to ensure that students will continue to learn and maintain classroom relationships, even when the buildings are not accessible. The greatness of many individuals shines through. We appreciate the leadership at the state and local levels that encourage exploring all ideas to meet the needs of students and staff across North Dakota. A powerful example of how the guidance of leaders enhances the hard work of individuals can be seen in the way thousands of meals are delivered to students in our cities and rural areas each day.
Our community agencies and local businesses have also come together to support our students and their families. During this time of so many unknowns, it is reassuring to have community members stepping up to provide security and opportunities. Beyond the local resources, numerous state and national educational companies are waiving fees to provide resources to enhance distance learning for teachers, students, and families.
Whether you are a teacher providing distance learning, a parent providing guidance at home, or a student dealing with so many uncertainties and changes, it is going to be okay! If we all give our very best effort, we trust it will be enough to learn amazing things, to do good for our community, and to be even stronger than we were before because we are all in this together, and together we can do great things!