Yukon students have been back in the classroom for about two weeks, and at least two teachers say they are happy to have them back.
Kayleen Browning, a fifth-grade teacher at the recently opened Redstone Intermediate, and Debbie Yeagley, who teaches second grade at Ranchwood Elementary, both said teaching students in the classroom is significantly easier than teaching online.
Browning, who taught in Yukon between 2004 and 2016 before leaving for another district, returned this year.
She teaches fifth-grade English and social studies at Redstone, which opened in September.
“It’s been a little different catching up after the break,” Browning said of the students returning to class.
Browning said initially teaching the students through the continuous learning plan did have some advantages, but having them in the classroom is preferred.
“I had an opportunity in the first four weeks to get to know the kids. But it is difficult to know the strengths and weaknesses when teaching from behind a screen,” she said.
Browning said with students returning to the classroom, it gives her and other teachers an opportunity to have a better connection.
“We can assess where they are at and assess their need for more interaction,” Browning said. “That’s difficult to do when they are working online.”
She said the transition back to the classroom has been fairly smooth, though it is “different” because her students are required to wear masks and she must make sure they social distance.
“It’s been a little more bumpy,” she said.
Browning has about 38 students. One class has 20 students, the other has 18.
Browning said her students switch classes after lunch.
“We’re not back into rhythm yet, but we’re finding our groove,” she said. “The kids have been resilient.”
“Kids are adaptive. They are learning to adapt to whatever situation they are thrown in,” Browning said.
While making the transition back to the tradition classroom has been a challenge, Browning said it is worth it.
“I love it. We have lots of fun and I get to see their humor and hear their stories. They want to tell you what is going on. That’s been a joy,” she said.
Meanwhile, Yeagley said the online learning experience was made better by her coworkers, who helped.
“I am almost 64, so my computer skills might not be what a 20-something has. When I started teaching, we were still typing on typewriters,” she said.
Fortunately, Yeagley was willing to learn.
“It did have a learning curve, but I loved it,” Yeagley said.
“I am thankful and blessed to have teammates who helped keep my technology updated. It was intimidating at first, but I learned,” she said.
Nonetheless, she’s glad to have her students back in the classroom.
Yeagley has been teaching for 25 years, including the last 22 as a second-grade teacher.
All 25 years have been at Ranchwood.
“The transition has been amazing. The little babies were so glad to be back,” she said.
The biggest change between virtual teaching and traditional teaching for Yeagley has been being able to see the students.
Before, she said, all she could see was their faces, and all the students could see was her face.
Still, she said, they are thriving.
“They are craving that personal relationship you have with your teacher. … They know you believe in them,” Yeagley said.
Yeagley’s class is among the smallest of her career. She has 14 students.
Normally, that number is closer to 20. However, some parents have opted to continue with the district’s virtual school program.
That allows Yeagley to spend more time with each student, to work with them one-on-one.
“We are enjoying every minute we have together,” she said.
The goal is to keep students in school and continue teaching them in the traditional classroom.
“Teaching is a personal relationship with those kids. It’s hard to have a relationship long distrance no matter whether you are five or 55. Things get lost in translation. Students need to know how special they are. Sometimes, you have to be in person to have those relationships,” Yeagley said.
Should the district eventually return to the continuous learning plan, both teachers said they have learned from previous experience.
“You have to keep it engaging,” Yeagley said.
“It’s a challenge and sometimes hard, but it has been a big learning experience. We look for the good and opportunities to grow,” Yeagley said.
“It hasn’t been bad, just different.”
Cutline: Kayleen Browning, a fifth-grade teacher at Redstone Intermediate School, works with a student in her classroom. Browning said she is happy to have students back in the traditional setting. Photo / Provided