Emily Oleyourryk, ’12, M.S.Ed.’14, is a fifth-grade English teacher at True North Rochester Prep in Rochester, N.Y. On the evening of March 13, 2020, classroom education was suspended due to the coronavirus and Emily, like teachers across the country, began engaging her students in a different way.
Her school was proactive in preparing for the possibility of closing, developing a plan and encouraging teachers to put together take-home packets of schoolwork for their students well in advance of the governor’s executive order. When the possibility became a reality, Emily and her colleagues began checking in with their advisees—the 12-15 students they had been assigned to keep in touch with throughout the year—to see if their families needed any resources and to find out how their home-schooling was going. On March 30, the school’s remote learning platform was launched, making it easier for students to email Emily and their other teachers to ask questions and seek assistance with online assignments.
“Our school has done a great job making sure our students have the technology and resources they need to complete their online learning,” Emily said.
While the new platform has eased some of the obstacles to completing the academic year, the more personal aspects of being a teacher are still a challenge, Emily noted.
“A lot of my students enjoy the daily routine we have at our school, and they look forward to seeing a friendly, familiar face every day and know they are safe,” she said. “Knowing I can’t be there for them instantly, like I would be during a normal school day, really takes a toll on you mentally.
“I fear for not knowing how my kids are doing, or if they’re doing their work to their fullest potential,” she continued. “I also don’t know every home situation, and if online learning is a struggle, I don’t want them feeling defeated.”
Despite these concerns, Emily is confident her students will successfully get through this unprecedented situation. They have been quick to contact her with questions and turn assignments in well before their due dates.
“This just shows how dedicated my students are to their own learning,” she said. “These are 10- and 11-year-olds, and they have taken charge of their academics.”
Emily has a message for the parents, teachers, students, and office workers who are doing their best to keep their spirits up during the current pandemic.
“Keep doing what you are doing,” she encouraged. “No one can be prepared for this. No one could have predicted this would happen, and our kids just need to know it is going to be okay.”