Above and Beyond the Classroom -Teaching during a pandemic

by Tom Akers correspondent

Chris Allen - Cambridge Music

“To be able to play and sing with my kids without a mask between us anymore”

This is Mrs. Chris Allen’s wish for the coming year. Allen is a native of Alexis, Illinois and has been teaching twenty three years, fifteen of them in Cambridge as the junior and senior high school band and choir teacher. She also directs the spring musical and is the set director for the fall plays at CHS.

For a music teacher, teaching during the pandemic has had its unique challenges. The first was the Illinois Department of Health not allowing music rehearsals indoors due to fears of transmission. “Windy days were not helpful when it came to teaching young JH students. We were constantly searching for a place out of the wind. Fortunately, the Department of Health eventually let us rehearse inside as long as we used the correct type of masks.”

Keeping online music students involved in the classroom activities was a second challenge for a teacher who relies on performance as a large part of her student’s grade. The online instruction, especially in the spring brought one of her best moments this past year, “I enjoyed playing instruments with my younger students.”

Allen has been able to find creative ways for her students to still perform and is thankful for that, “I know many of my fellow music teachers are not allowed to perform at all so getting to do any type of performance has made me feel fortunate.” The band was able to perform at night spaced out on the football field in October and the Christmas concert was pre recorded and broadcast virtually in December.

Personally, having to use a mask while singing in class has worried Mrs. Allen, “My concern is for my voice. It is one thing to project my voice without a mask; I just hope I am not damaging my voice trying to be heard through my mask.”

One thing Mrs. Allen has shared so many ups and downs this past ten months. “We were able to celebrate the marriage of our daughter and her husband, but not with our family and friends as we had planned. This school year is tough not only professionally, but personally since I have a child that is a senior this year. My husband

and I were looking forward to enjoying the "senior" activities one last time, but we haven't been able to do that this year.”

Heather Pine - Cambridge Title Math

“Some of the growth I have seen with students is amazing”

Heather Pine works in the Title Math program at Cambridge Elementary School and during the pandemic has worked individually with parents and students and for some of her students the growth has been amazing. One student in particular stands out in her mind, “her parents did an excellent job during the Spring. Seeing her confidence in my room each day this fall highlights the importance of a family-school partnership.”

Mrs. Pine graduated from Cambridge High School and after graduating from Monmouth College returned home to teach Title Math to students at Cambridge Elementary while pursuing her Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from Western Illinois University. She is in her tenth year of teaching kindergarten through fourth grade.

In March of 2020 Mrs. Pine found time management to be her top challenge balancing both the role of a teacher along with being the mom to two young boys. I was lucky that my husband was working from home to help out. There were many late nights once the boys were asleep that I would create my video lessons to upload for my classes.” It was however the pandemic which Pine feels provided her with a lot of time with her own children, “I have truly enjoyed the additional family time with my husband and two sons. Having the opportunity for life to slow down was a blessing.” Pine does credit the pandemic with improving her skills with technology. “The pandemic pushed me to dive into technology head first. I spent MANY hours learning all things Google related, extensions, and websites to provide a better education for my students. Many of my math activities were center based and/or with partners. I have adapted my lessons by doing activities through Google Slides, JamBoard, NearPod, and PearDeck to allow the students to continue to collaborate and work together with one another.”

Mrs. Pine would like parents to know and understand that, “teachers are doing everything and learning anything that we can to provide the best education to all students, whether it remotely or in person. Teachers are putting in more hours than ever before.”

Her wish for 2021? “For everyone to continue to have patience, grace, nd understanding during this time. I am hopeful that we can return to a normal school year next fall!