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Special education teachers reflect on last school year, look forward to upcoming year

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 4:09 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 10, 2021 at 6:45 PM CDT
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VIENNA, Ill. (KFVS) - As the school year approaches, teachers are looking forward to getting back into the classroom.

Two special education teachers at Vienna High School explained how their school year in 2020-2021 played out, and what they are looking forward to this upcoming school year.

“Our goal is to provide them with the most appropriate education for them at their level,” said Kara Hight, special education teacher at Vienna High School.

Hight is used to being up close and personal with her students, but last year was not the typical year in the classroom for special education.

“So we’re used to just getting kind of down, nitty gritty, hands on if a student needs help, we’re right next to them or they’re right next to us, in the back of my mind it was always the what if,” she said.

Hight was concerned about either catching or transmitting COVID-19.

“What if I get too close to the student, what if the student is sick, what if I’m sick and get this sick. So In the back of my mind it was always the what if. I still really wanted to do my job to the best of my ability, I wanted to be here for these kids,” she said.

Hight said being in the classroom helps her better understand her students.

“I think for me the biggest reward is that I can develop those close relationships, maybe a little bit more than like a regular teacher can. I have smaller class sizes, but I’m working more one-on-one with them,” said Hight.

Hight’s colleague, Michelle Hunsaker, is a life skills teacher. She called last school year very scary.

“We all came in not knowing how we were going to handle it, what we were going to be able to do. We didn’t know if we were going to have to come into the classrooms scaring the kids with all PPE on. We first thought we were going to have to do that,” explained Hunsaker.

She works with students with disabilities that are more severe and profound.

She called last year was one of the toughest years of her teaching career due to the moving parts.

“So it was all just kind of a guessing game on what to do and calling parents and what they were comfortable with and what kids were actually going to come to school in person, what kids were going to stay home remotely,” she said. “We did have a couple that chose to stay home remotely because they were more fragile.”

Hunsaker is wanting the good news to continue rolling in.

“All the kids that had stayed home remotely due to the fear of COVID have decided they are going to come back in person, everybody feels like we did a great job here at school last year keeping everything under control and everyone’s very happy with the way we did everything and they’re excited to come back next year,” she explained.

Hight and Hunsaker both felt the same about this upcoming year.

“I’m looking forward to normal, I’m hoping that we’re as normal as possible,” Hight said. “Obviously, we are going to do what we’re told. Whether it be wearing masks or social distancing, but my hope is that things are normal, that the students can come back to school and have a normal school year.”

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