AUSTIN, Texas — An empty classroom means a bit more this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. It means lost memories that students and teachers will never get back for the 2019-2020 school year.
"Being a teacher means being with my students every day, so having to switch gears and really think about how I can best reach my students every day virtually has been a challenge," said Melinda Schermerhorn, a Round Rock ISD fourth-grade teacher. "I think for most of us, it's just being out of the classroom. I mean, that's really where we're meant to be. Really, we're just missing our kids."
KVUE spoke with several teachers about how they're reacting to Gov. Greg Abbott closing schools for good this year. Most said it's more than just grades and tests for them.
"It's been an adjustment knowing that they won't get that final spring performance, have those end-of-the-year traditions. So, we're going to have to be a little creative," said Dana Thompson, Leander Middle School's theater director.
"I'm definitely sad. I think I knew it was coming, but hearing that announcement, I was definitely sad. This is the time of year, for teachers, we get to celebrate [the] accomplishments of our students. For me, it's being able to spotlight all the things that they've grown in," Schermerhorn said.
Central Texas schools remain closed for 2019-2020 year
"A lot of them didn't come to school the Friday before spring break, and I don't think that any of us could've ever realized or fathomed that that would be the last time we would see one another," said Michelle Lux, a Leander High School teacher and the social studies department coordinator.
"As a fine arts teacher, we get to see kids for three whole years and watch them grow," Thompson said. "This is my third year at Leander. My first set of kids that have cycled through middle school together with me."
"I wasn't shocked, but I was at least hopeful that we would at least get to say goodbye to our friends in person," said Gloria Rocha, a dual-language second-grade teacher at Reed Elementary School. "I don't get to say goodbye to my students and, you know, see them off onto their next grade level."
The teachers said they want students and parents to know they're heartbroken, too, but they'll be figuring out how to be there for their students.
"Even though we're not together, we're still here for them," said Lela Dion, a Reed Elementary kindergarten dual-language teacher. "I'm truly heartbroken. I was holding out that we would be able to go back at least one week and say goodbye and wrap up the year."
"This has been a huge undertaking for all of us, and every day there's a new learning curve. There's something more that we get to discover, that we get to practice so we can best meet the needs of our students," Lux said.
All the teachers said they're open to helping struggling families and students with online learning.
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