Teachers reflect on unique Covid school year


Pictured: Randy Lau Photo taken by: Kaylee Woolsoncroft

This school year has been like swimming in the deep end and not knowing how to swim.  Teachers and staff have been trying to be lifeguards to students but they are struggling too.  Teachers have tried to make changes and the transition from hybrid to full time as smooth and easy as possible.  English teacher Kourtney Abbotts said she took current circumstances as a benefit.

I love building relationships with kids so I looked at it as an opportunity to get to know what each student looked like and their personalities,” Abbotts said. 

A barrier for teachers could be not being able to give the students help when they simply don’t want assistance.  It’s also a struggle when teachers have to teach to icons instead of teaching to faces and making connections.  

“It is important to me that all students feel successful in my class so when I see students struggling it is tough to support them, especially though Google Meets, but I am calling and reaching out to students constantly to provide extra support,” Abbotts said. 

Media teacher Randy Lau said he has been frustrated with students having lack of motivation. 

The biggest struggle is getting students to do their work,” Lau said. “It is like many of them simply do not care and think that they will pass if they do nothing.”

Teachers are potentially putting their health at risk to provide an education for students.  Teachers and staff enforce the new rules and new norms to keep students and them safe.  

“I am diabetic and at high risk,” Lau said. “I see students walking in the hall with their masks under their chins and I just keep thinking that I am putting my life in danger and some of these students simply do not care. I seriously thought about retiring early and briefly considered taking a leave of absence.”  

Teachers and staff try their best to keep themselves and their students safe.  They have also tried to stay positive during this time for the students.  Teachers are adapting to the changes to make the situation easier for everyone. 

“I have definitely been stressed, I have been teaching for over 30 years and this is by far the hardest year I have ever had,”  Lau said. “I feel we needed more preparation to teach online, it almost felt like it was my first year of teaching, not knowing how I was going to do my job. I am a very strong person with strong opinions. I can handle what is thrown at me and I will come out of this a stronger person. I just hope I do come out of this.”

History teacher Tyler Brietzke had a plan to insure that there would be safety for him and his students. 

“I work my tail off from 8 am to 4 pm ensuring that I have everything prepared.”  Brietzke said. “I knew that if I could control my own space, social distancing, and sanitizing that things would be okay…My main concerns were taking accurate attendance, keeping a safe classroom environment, and ultimately the well-being of my own health.”

Teachers such as Brietzke have tried to keep a positive outlook on the tough situations this year has brought.  For example, Brietzke said he has found the bright side in situations and things that can calm them down and keep them happy. 

“I’ve approached this year with an open heart and mind. This year has brought a lot of positives to my teaching.”  Brietzke said, “I’ve found refuge in cooking, exercise, and reading over the last several months.

Lau also used things that made him happy to keep his stress down.  


“I separate my personal life from my work life,” Lau said. This year I have decided once I walk out of the building I try to do something that takes my mind off of my work life.hat might be doing my woodworking, going on a hike or just hanging out with my golden retriever.”

Abbotts tried to keep a healthy outlook of the situation. 

“My mental health is great. When I come home from school I take time to focus on my family and play with my kids. In any profession, it is important to have balance across all levels,”  Abbotts said.  

This year so far has been complicated and stressful for teachers and staff.  As the role models and examples in the school they have shown students to put a brave face on and take what is given to you and run with it.  

 “I’m more clear and organized than I have ever been,” Brietzke said. “I’ve developed some really good relationships with kids who desperately missed those things with school closure last year.”

Abbotts kept the positivity for her classroom.  

“I always maintain the same mindset when it comes to teaching — we are here for the kids. I maintain that mindset which has allowed me to be the best positive version of myself for my kids,” Abbotts said, “This year has taught me that kindness and positivity are at the core of every classroom. Being empathetic and understanding is essential in supporting high school students not just during a pandemic, but all of the time.“

Abbotts explained her mindset further.  

“My biggest worry as a teacher is asking myself if I am doing enough for all students.”  Abbotts said.