CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) – One special education teacher in Champaign loves her job, and this pandemic has made her realize why.
Katie Smith teaches at Barkstall Elementary School. As a special education teacher, she loves making her students feel just like everyone else.
“My favorite part of being a special ed teacher is working with students who have either internalized or been told, directly or indirectly that they are somehow less than, and showing them that with hard work, and with the right teaching strategies they can learn,” Smith told WAND News.
But the pandemic brought challenges to her teaching. Smith, along with her students, had to get over the technology curve. “I had never zoomed, I have never made a Google slide assignment, ” said Smith. “I had never had to describe to students in action I want them to do without them having visual cues.”
But this only made her a stronger teacher. She said COVID 19 has allowed her to truly understand her role as a teacher.
“In this pandemic, it’s really recognizing what my job as a teacher is. And that yes is to teach academics, but also to make my students feel safe and secure and proud of themselves,” said Smith.
She and her students have been learning together. Students will come back for in person learning soon, and she says there might be new battles to fight, such as staying six feet away from her students.
“When a student needs help, it is going to be hard to not walk over to them and help them in the way we as teachers want to, and it feels impossible,” Katie said. However, she thinks this new experience will allow her to become a better educator.
Katie recognizes 2020 has been a hard year, but she is choosing to look at it in a different way.
What if 2020 is the best thing to happen to us?,” she said. “What if 2020, as an educator, really pushed me to learn some amazing skills? What if 2020 forced my students to become more independent?”
Katie remains optimistic about the rest of the school year, one lesson plan at a time.