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Tales from a unique school year

New York Teacher

The 2020–21 school year is demanding ingenuity, flexibility and patience from New York City public school educators in all job titles. Both in-person and remote functional chapter members are grappling with the unique challenges of serving their students during a pandemic. These are their stories.

A tale from Margie Pardo, school counselor

I’ve been working remotely since we left in March and it’s been extremely difficult because I’m a hands-on person with students. It was very long hours — it still is — because reaching some of the students is harder. We had the wrong numbers for some students, and some had their phones disconnected. When we can’t find the students, our attendance teacher and our principal make home visits. Everyone is supportive.


A tale from Ponzella Johnson, school nurse

My greatest challenge this on Staten Island school year has been making sure my school community was able to keep safe.

I knew that it was essential for classroom teachers and support staff to have easy access to first-aid items because they had to remain contained with their group. In September, I created an emergency first-aid bag for each classroom and COVID-19 building response team member, including gloves, gauze, bandages, adult and children’s face masks, face shields, an infrared thermometer, tissues and brown bags to store masks during lunchtime


A tale from Robin Kaplan, speech teacher

I work with pre-K through 3rd-grade students five days a week in school. I also provide services to remote students from inside the school building. This year has challenged me professionally and personally, but it also has been very rewarding.

In a regular school year, I spoke with my students’ parents a few times a year. Now we speak multiple times a week. We have seen a carryover of skills from school to home. Parents have opened up to me about school and about their own lives in a way they never would have before


A tale from Lori Perry, social worker for school-based support programs

My line of work is very personal, and this year has made it challenging.

Before, I was always visible. Everybody, parents and kids, knew who I was. I’ve been in my school for 19 years, so I have former students coming in as parents now. I had a breakfast group where kids could come when they had a bad morning. The kids called it Mrs. Perry’s Breakfast Club. That’s gone now.

You take on different roles now within the school because there are fewer staff and fewer children in the building at a time


A tale from Andrea Kasowitz, teacher of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing

The pandemic has created a wide range of physical challenges for teachers of Deaf and hard-of-hearing students in our school, but we’re not letting them get us down.

Typically, classroom seats would be arranged in a U pattern so all of my nine students would be able to see each other in order to communicate. But social distancing requires that the seats now be arranged in checkerboard fashion


A tale from Ina Friedman, school secretary

I started with the Department of Education as a per diem on Dec. 16, 1986, so I’ve been with the DOE a heck of a long time. I’ll be 73 years old in March, and I’m still working.

I work 24/7 — my phone is always with me. Teachers who work in the building call or text me if they’re going to be out, and then I have to get a sub in. That’s been much harder this year because most of the subs I used to call were retired teachers, and they don’t want to come into the school building. So I’m relying on SubCentral, and it’s more of a hassle. If staff members are working remotely from home, we’re not hiring a sub

Related Topics: Coronavirus