Teachers learn to juggle classes, family


English teacher Erika Henk has worked hard to provide engaging lessons for her students while also being a mother to her two children. Photo courtesy of Erika Henk.

Olivia Buda '22, Staff Writer

The coronavirus has everyone facing new challenges, especially teachers. Figuring out online classes and how to productively teach them, as well as taking care of their families, has not been easy.
“The hardest part about not being in school is the (lack of ) social interaction and face-to-face teaching with my students,” Honors American Literature teacher Erika Henk said. “It makes it more difficult for what we are discussing to be as impactful.”
The toughest part of online learning is not seeing my students’ faces, not engaging in small talk with them and not being able to hold class discussions every day makes teaching more difficult Henk said.
Health and student center teacher Nicole Westfall said staying connected with her students is challenging even though they are all technologically “connected.” She has been making efforts to reach out to her students and keep updated, but it’s not nearly the same.
“I have sent out a few emails and I have responded to every email. I made comments on my students’ outlines they are working on,” Westfall said. “I might try a Zoom conference.”
Being positive is challenging at a time like this. Henk said it is hard to keep her young ones entertained and healthy as well as figure out new teaching methods.
“My husband is a nurse, so I am concerned about his welfare while at work,” Henk said. “It has been a challenge trying to remain positive while teaching my own children and developing lessons for my students. My kids are pretty awesome and have been giving me time at home to complete most of my work.”
Maria Liburdi ’22 said online school has its positives and negatives, and her mom, who is a teacher, feels the same way. According to Liburdi, they like the free time but miss the interaction.
“I like online learning because there isn’t as much work as we would usually have so it leaves me with a lot of free time. Except during my free time there really isn’t much to do,” Liburdi said. “I think the teachers are doing as much as they can because this is new to them and they don’t really know what to do. But for the most part they have stayed in good contact with all of their students and are trying their best to teach us.”
Westfall said, as well as attending to her students, she has been spending time with her family at home and making sure their physical and mental health is staying relatively high during quarantine.
“I am lucky that I do not have little kids at home, it is just Brooke. My oldest, Avery, is still up at Northern Michigan University doing her online college classes. Brooke and I have crafts and projects planned, like (making) slime and tie-dye shirts, and today we are making bath bombs,” Westfall said.
Henk said this is hard for everyone and she will not stop doing her best to manage her family and the knowledge of her students.
“It’s important to me to stay involved with students,” Henk said. “Each week I am trying new things to capture student engagement.”