Feature photo: Mindy Portier’s second-grade classroom at Magnolia Elementary School.
Despite the challenges, teachers in Acadiana are finding ways to remain positive as students return to the classroom during the pandemic.
While preparing for the 2020-2021 school year, teachers are working to implement new guidelines created by the parishes and schools throughout Acadiana. Public and private school teachers are uncovering multiple challenges while creating an environment for children to learn effectively with the new changes.
One challenge that teachers are facing is not knowing if a child is falling behind. Mindy Portier, a second-grade teacher at Magnolia Elementary in New Iberia, Louisiana, said that some children may already be behind because of the early closing of schools during the 2019-2020 school year amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re going to have to go in and actually kind of assess where the kids are now because they haven’t had instruction for six months. I’m sure they are not going to be where they need to be,” Portier said.
Dalane Guidry, the Speech and Language Pathologist at Magnolia Elementary School, said the mask mandate will be a challenge for her. She said that wearing the mask while talking will be something that she needs to get used to.
According to the Louisiana Department of Education, “Adults and students, 3rd grade and up, must wear face coverings, as able, to the maximum extent possible.”
“I have a face shield and a clear mask for speech therapy because they obviously have to see my mouth. So, I am anxious to see how that works,” Guidry said.
In classrooms where all students are required to wear masks, teachers find it challenging to connect with students. Samantha Stelly, a science teacher at St. Thomas More in Lafayette, said she has trouble learning names and seeing facial expressions.
“I am trying to remember names based off of their eyes pretty much. It is hard because you don’t realize how much you need that facial expression from kids. Reading the eyes is really hard,” said Stelly.
Another challenge for teachers is disinfecting throughout the day. Lindsey Desormeaux, a kindergarten teacher at Ascension Episcopal School in Lafayette, said it can be difficult to think about all the items she must clean during the day. Desormeaux said sometimes she only has a few minutes in between a group of kids to clean everything the students touched.
Even with the difficulties, Desormeaux said that the rules must be followed so that children can safely attend classes.
“You want to do everything to keep everybody safe. We don’t have to love the guidelines, but in order for us to be face-to-face we have to do them,” Desormeaux said.
Both Guidry and Portier said they missed seeing their students and having them in the classroom.
Guidry said even though she is anxious about what the school year will look like, she loves her job and her students and is excited to return to teaching.
Portier said she is willing to move desks six feet apart if it means students can be back in her class. Portier said she believes going back to school and having a routine for children is important.
“This is going to be a year of grace. We don’t know what to expect. But we plan on giving lots of grace and we ask that you give us grace,” Portier said.