Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
A sidewalk-based message welcomes students and staff back to Sít’ Eetí Shaanàx-Glacier Valley School ahead of the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 16.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire A sidewalk-based message welcomes students and staff back to Sít’ Eetí Shaanàx-Glacier Valley School ahead of the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 16.

Teachers share excitement about return to classrooms

There’s nothing like in-person instruction for teaching

While Zoom classes became de rigueur in the pandemic era, many teachers say there’s no substitute for the real thing st students return to classes.

The Juneau School District’s fall semester began yesterday. How did teachers feel going in?

“It was exhausting but delightful compared to teaching over the Zoom,” said Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé English teacher Amy Lloyd, “Today was great. The freshmen were getting lost as normal.”

The opinion might not have been unanimous, but other teachers echoed the sentiment, being excited about getting back into the classroom.

[Full-time, in-person learning returns for Juneau’s students]

“I was definitely nervous going in,” said Rebecca Hsieh, who teaches primary school at the Juneau Community Charter School. “Seeing the kids in person has really put me at ease.”

While there is still a larger-than-normal contingent of children studying through the district’s Homebridge program, Lloyd said classes are largely back to normal size.

“My classes were pretty full,” Lloyd said in a phone interview. “My biggest one was 32, my smallest was 21.”

Students are working well with mask requirements in the classroom, Lloyd said.

“I saw 150 kids, maybe 130, and they just wear their masks,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t get a complaint, I didn’t have to ask anyone repeatedly.”

Chris Heidemann, head of the Juneau Education Association and teacher at JDHS, said that he was comfortable with the mitigation strategies in place.

“I’m not going to try to speak for everyone,” Heidemann said in a phone interview. “From my perspective here at JDHS, I thought the mitigation strategies were really effective.”

While the Zoom learning did allow education to continue after a fashion, teachers are more effective in-person, Lloyd said.

“It’s so much better to be in person. You get the nuance of students,” Lloyd said. “You can see who’s disengaged, who’s confused. The eyebrows draw together and you can see the confusion.”

Lloyd said that while there had been no changes to the content of her curriculum as an English teacher, students had begun to examine their work through the lens of the pandemic, which had taken on the weight of a defining moment for their generation, as previous generations had been defined by events like 9/11.

“I haven’t changed much of the actual literature they read, but discussions are now nuanced with what they’ve seen,” Lloyd said. “For little kids, this is now the world, but the older students, they notice.”

As case counts rise and the delta variant spreads, teachers said they hope that high vaccination rates for those able to be vaccinated and mitigation measures will be able to keep kids in schools.

“I’m vaccinated myself and so are my children ,and I’m just glad to have this opportunity to get back to teaching in person,” Lloyd said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advise children younger than 12 who aren’t cleared to receive the vaccine to wear a mask in public spaces or around people who are not members of their households.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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