San Jose elementary school teachers share distance learning struggles ahead of receiving COVID-19 vaccine

"We're teachers because we love to teach, we're teachers because we love to support kids and we want to see them successful. We're doing everything we can in this difficult situation, this distance learning."
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Public Schools across the Bay Area have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic for nearly a full year and it has led to challenges many teachers have never faced.

We asked elementary school teachers in San Jose to take a look back on their time throughout distance learning just before educators begin to receive their vaccines in Santa Clara County.

For more than 300 days, most public school campuses have looked the same way in the South Bay: empty.

But that doesn't mean the work has stopped.

"We're teachers because we love to teach, we're teachers because we love to support kids and we want to see them successful and we're doing everything we can in this difficult situation, this distance learning."

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Frost Elementary first grade teacher Rebecca Munson has had to redesign what she has done throughout her nearly 10 year teaching career.

I asked her what challenges have come up throughout this process, and in true teacher form, she shared the difficulties her students are facing first.

Then, she told me her biggest struggle.

"We not only do academics, but we do social and emotional learning too and just supporting them where they need that," Munson said. "That has been a big challenge for me to be able to try and build those relationships."

She adds that a struggle comes from the planning of the return to in-person learning.
Munson hopes the school district will be able to provide the proper funding to ensure everyone is safe by implementing safety measures within the classrooms.

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For some educators, another struggle comes from where they are working.

Some teach in front of empty classrooms on campus at school.

But for many others, like Hayes Elementary fourth grade teacher Jen Spiteri it's home schooling in a new way.

"Well, I don't eat dinner at my kitchen table anymore," Spiteri said.

Her home has turned into a classroom.

She says she will do anything she can do to give the best education to her students.

She does this with the hopes they can be prepared to return to normal schooling soon.

Contrary to what many believe, she said, teachers want to be in person when it is safe.

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"We want to go back too and we want to go back when it's safe," Spiteri said. "We all want what's best for the kids and we all want to support them. But, no matter what, I think the kids are learning. The data, at least from my test results, show that they are learning."

If it wasn't hard enough for these veteran teachers to learn a new way of doing work, try being a student teacher.

That's the reality for Kendra Tu who is getting a unique perspective as she learns and works online with a Frost third and fourth grade combo class.

She sees the work being done from both sides of the equation and hopes the communities she and her fellow teachers serve sees it too.

"We're trying to make sure that we're there for the kids, we're there for our communities and we're there for ourselves," Tu said. "This is our opportunity to transform education and make it more meaningful going forward."

With vaccines on the horizon in Santa Clara County, these teachers hope their districts can create a safe plan for everyone so they can transform education in person very soon.



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