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A tale from Ina Friedman, school secretary

A city DOE employee since 1986, Friedman says she now works 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. That’s been much harder this year.” She misses the kids and hopes they’ll soon be “yelling and screaming and smiling and laughing without a mask on.”

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

The pandemic has created unique challenges for Kasowitz and other teachers like her, “but we're not letting them get us down,” she says. Social distancing affects seating arrangements and masks make it hard to see facial expressions. “I have taught my students that we don't give up when there's a problem,” she says. We solve it and move on from there.”

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

“Before I was always visible,” says Perry. “That's gone now. You take on different roles because there are fewer staff and fewer children in the building.” Perry says students’ families are overwhelmed by remote learning and the process for setting up or changing services takes longer. But she’s learned “you have to be creative and adapt to the situation at hand.”

A tale from Robin Kaplan, speech teacher

“There’s nothing that compares to in-person learning,” Kaplan says, “but I'm putting the same amount of energy and love into every session I create, whether in-person or remote.” In a challenging year, Kaplan points to rewards: speaking to parents more frequently, seeing skills carried over from school to home, and deepened relationships with colleagues.

A tale from Ponzella Johnson, school nurse

“My greatest challenge,” says Johnson, “has been making sure my school community was able to keep safe. I knew it was essential for classroom teachers and support staff to have easy access to first aid items because they had to remain contained within their group.” So Johnson created and distributed emergency kits.

A tale from Margie Pardo, school counselor

“In our school,” Pardo says, “we do as many things as we can to engage students. Our goal is to create a safe space where students feel they belong and are validated.” Pardo has been working remotely since March and finds it extremely difficult because she is a hands-on person.

Valuable insight

Jonathan Hooper, an itinerant teacher of students with visual impairments in New York City and the Braille Institute Teacher of the Year for 2020, works one on one with students at all grade levels in all five boroughs. “With some accommodations, students with visual impairments can thrive,” he says.

Evan Losow, remote AP English teacher, Brooklyn Technical HS

When teaching remotely, there is so much educators can't control, says one AP English teacher at Brooklyn Tech HS. It's a challenge to engage students and to gauge their interest.

Diane Savattieri, kindergarten teacher, PS 185, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

A kindergarten teacher in Brooklyn says technology was the smallest part of her day before COVID-19, but now it's the biggest part, and she has been as willing to try and as adaptable as her students.

Tricia Donnelly, pre-K teacher, PS/IS 127, East Elmhurst, Queens

A pre-K teacher at PS/IS 127 in Queens who teaches remotely from both school and home, misses having students in the classroom, but she uses her creativity to keep them engaged and laughing.