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Pike County schools recognize teachers of the year

The Pike County School System’s Teachers of the 2020 School Year were honored Wednesday at the Central Office in Troy.

Dr. Mark Bazzell recognized, Shelia Ballard, Goshen High School; Tammy Goss, Pike County High School, Sontessia Youngblood, Banks Middle School; and Lytelia Berry, Pike County Elementary School, for their dedication to education and for going far beyond in their dedication to their students.

Bazzell said the honored teachers are representative of all the teachers in the Pike County School System and expressed his appreciation to each and every one of them.

The Pike County School System is joining Gov. Kay Ivey and the State Department of Education in honoring all educators during “Thank Alabama Teacher Week” through Saturday, November 21.

Bazzell said the 2020-2021 school year has been a challenging year and he welcomed the opportunity to formally thank the Teachers of the Year 2020, individually, and as representatives of all teachers within the system.

“Our teachers have done a great job delivering instruction and following the rules,” Bazzell said. “We thank them for the work they are doing. They are greatly appreciated.”

Bazzell said plans are for the return of some level of normalcy December through January, including having the seniors back in the classroom after Christmas.

“We want our seniors back to make sure they are on track to graduate,” he said. “Virtual learning is here to stay because of the world we live in. We want to provide our students with opportunities for virtual learning before they go to college or enter the workplace.”

The honored teachers agreed.

Berry, Goss and Youngblood have been challenged with teaching both traditional and virtual classes while Ballard has a traditional classroom.

“I had 22 years in the classroom but this, my 23rd year teaching, is like my first year,” Goss said. “I’m in the same boat with our first-year teachers. But it’s working. We bounce ideas off each other. We look for new and different ways to present information because it’s most important that our kids not stress out and shut down. It’s a real challenge but our students are learning and we are learning.”

Not seeing the faces of her virtual students has been the biggest adjustment for Berry.

“I just don’t know if I’m reaching them,” she said. “In a traditional classroom, you know if your students are getting it. Phone calls to the parents and to the students help establish rapport. It’s all different but my students are resilient. They have adapted well to the change.”

And the teachers are hold hands through the process, Youngblood said.

“It is a time for self-evaluation; teaching is a tremendous responsibility,” Youngblood said. “ I am even more prepared because I am teaching both virtually and traditionally and I’m learning more every day.”

Although Ballard’s classroom is traditional, she, too, has to be prepared to teach virtually.

If for some reason, instruction had to be totally virtual, she has to be prepared or in the event a student required virtual instruction.

“And for the future,” Ballard said. “Virtual learning is here to stay.”

The teachers did expressed concern that the students don’t have ample time to develop socialization skills. Lunchtime and playtime/gym have lost many of their opportunities for socialization.The honored teachers agreed that COVID-19 has brought about challenges that require doing new things and old things in new and different ways. Teaching during a pandemic does not have a how-to handbook to guide the way and there is no one to say, “this is the way.”

But, the teachers in the Pike County School System are finding their own way. Sometimes there are bumps in the road or mountains to climb but there is a way around or over and they are finding the ways and creating their own.