Above and Beyond - Teaching in a Pandemic

by Tom Akers correspondent

Above and Beyond the Classroom: Teaching During a Pandemic

Leann Holst - Special Education

“We have all learned the importance of grace and compassion,” one of the things teaching during the pandemic has taught Cambridge Junior High Special Education teacher Leann Holst.

Leann Host was born in Smolan, Kansas, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in elementary education and special education from McPherson College. She received her Masters Degree from Northwest Missouri State University in Special Education and Learning Disabilities. Host has been at Cambridge four of her seventeen years in education.

Working from home was Mrs. Host’s first challenge during the beginnings of the pandemic. “With most of my family members all at home either working or completing college course-work, it was difficult to find a way for us to all function under one roof. I was able to set up an office in our basement that resembled my teaching space at school, complete with my LadyBug projector and a whiteboard.”

Since school resumed in the fall, reaching both remote and in person learners has been her challenge, she’s had to learn how to use things like screencastify to record her lessons as well to reach those students who are at home. “I have also learned that Google Slides is a teacher’s best friend during a pandemic. Creating lessons right on the slides is a seamless and easy way for students to complete their work.”

Unique to her position, the final challenge Holst has had to overcome is running meetings with the parents of her special education students regarding their Individualized Education Plans has been difficult. “To be able to get an entire team of anywhere from five to fifteen people together on a zoom meeting is very challenging.

However, Leann Holst has sought out the moments in the past ten months which have stood out to her. “I had a student that was home on quarantine. She was pretty bummed out that she couldn’t be at school, so to try to bring a little bit of cheer and laughter to her day, I told her I would come to our Google Meet class each day during her quarantine with a different crazy hair-do. For our next Google Meet class I showed up with my hair in crazy ponytails all over my head, and her reaction was priceless!”

Holst forgot her hair was still in the pony tails and after the zoom meeting she walked out into the halls with her fellow teachers all staring at her, “I couldn’t figure out what everyone was staring at...and then it hit me.”

Flexibility is the top lesson she has learned personally from the last ten months. “We can no longer count on the fact that tomorrow will be just like today. It has also shown me the importance of showing others more grace and compassion because you never know what they are going through at home during this pandemic.”

Leann Holst would like parents to know “I am dedicated to their students’ learning whether or not their child is learning remotely or in-person. I will work hard to make sure that they have successful learning experiences in either scenario.”

Her wish for 2021? That the terms isolate, quarantine, social distancing, and pandemic will one day disappear from our daily vocabulary!