Teachers reflect on the first month of school

Madison Abbassi and Ash Mehta

Anatomy teacher Randy Scilingo poses next to an instructional skeleton in his classroom. Scilingo, like many other teachers in the district, has enjoyed the return to school because his students have been more engaged during the in-person classes.  “I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how they [the students] have really been into stuff,” Scilingo said. “I was worried that they would come back disconnected after a few years of irregular school.” (Photo: Madison Abbassi)

After a month back on campus, students and teachers are finally adjusting to in-person learning. Teachers share their first thoughts on returning to school after a year on Zoom.

Living Skills and dance teacher Alyssa Bond said the return to campus has provided a large boost to her own morale.

“It’s a big sigh of relief to see faces, even though they’re masked,” Bond said. “Just [to] have bodies in the room again and the energy … it’s just remarkable.”

Bond added that she especially appreciates the return to school after an isolating year online.

“So [many] of the things that a lot of educators love about teaching sort of dissipated [during the pandemic],” she said.

Chemistry teacher Aparna Sankararaman said that she has also been enjoying the daily face-to-face interactions of an in-person environment.

“It’s the small things you don’t even think about,” she said. “I’m overjoyed to be back with the students.”

Having to move online for the past year has motivated Sankaraman to plan more labs for her AP Chemistry classes this year.

“When [the ability to do labs] was taken away from me as a chemistry teacher, there was definitely a big void,” she said. “Like, what is chemistry without labs?”

Sankararaman said she appreciates students’ efforts to stay masked and stay safe.

“The students that I’ve been interacting with have been respectful of staying masked the whole time, with no fuss about it,” she said. “The level of discipline among the kids in the class is better than so many adults out there.”

Human anatomy and biology teacher Randy Scilingo agreed with Sankararaman and Bond, adding that his classes this year are able to look more closely at anatomical models than they would have been able to online.

“There are six full skeletons over there,” Scilingo said. “Those are all the units we’re going to do. Everything about this class is supposed to be hands-on, that’s the way I made it.”

However, he said he has found a silver lining from the year on Zoom.

“I was able to create enough of an online library through my Schoology that I can support a kid who misses a day,” Scilingo said. 

He also noted that online school prompted the school district to pay for subscriptions to educational services like Gizmo, which provides interactive labs online, and he has continued to use them in his science classes this year.

Despite the joy of returning, some teachers said the return to in-person school has come with one small drawback.

“I miss my dog, and my dog misses me, and my wife’s still working from home,” Sankararaman said. “But the benefits I’m getting here [at school] outweigh that.”