MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - LaCynthia Matthews is a new second grade teacher at Fitzpatrick Elementary in Montgomery. Matthews has 16 years of teaching experience, but has never started the school year in a completely virtual classroom environment.
“I do feel like the old dog that’s having to learn some new tricks,” Matthews said. “It’s not ideal, but it’s the age that we live in. Am I uncomfortable with it? Not at all.”
Last week, Montgomery Public Schools announced that they would be going completely virtual for the first nine weeks of school to combat the ongoing spread of COVID-19.
Educators said the new way of learning will pose unique challenges for students, parents and teachers.
"It's unfortunate that we are having to go through this, but we are going through it together," said Jefferson Davis High School's new Principal Demond Mullins. "We can work out the kinks as they come along."
The most difficult part of virtual learning, Matthews said, is not being able to have in-person connections with students.
"I look forward to getting to know my kids," Matthews said. "That's the best part of the beginning of the school year."
Matthew said she would normally start the year with "get to know you" activities. She said that will be more challenging to do online but it's not impossible.
“I just feel like we still can have that connection even with the virtual classrooms and the lessons online,” Matthews said. “Is it ideal? No. But in life there are a lot of unforeseen circumstances that come our way, we just take the punches and keep going and make the best of it.”
"I thought about sending post cards to my children," Matthews went on to say. "There is nothing like a hand written anything just to welcome them to my classroom, sending out notes with pictures letting them know 'hey I am the new teacher!"
Matthews said educators know how to make adjustments.
“It’s the same thing in the classroom,” she said. “Every day is a new day and you learn to adjust.”
Mullins agreed that not having the usual interactions with students will be difficult.
"Educators are always used to making adjustments, this is an adjustment we don't want to make, but it's an adjustment we have to make," Mullins said. "We still will make connections with students, but most of it will be virtual."
Both educators said the key to successful virtual learning this fall will be consistent communication.
"We're going to reach out to parents, we're going to reach out to students, and we're going to track their attendance in the classroom," Mullins said. "Because this is different and it's new to everyone. I think it's very important from our standpoint that we do reach out. It's our job, along with the students, to make sure that we're reaching out and making sure that they're doing things the right way."
“We do care about the kids and this is all for the kids,” Matthews said. “We may start the year a little different than what we usually do but it’s still starting with love, and with communication.”
MPS teachers will officially return to work Aug. 4 and students begin virtual learning Aug. 10.