Elgin teachers ready to return to classroom

By Jessie Reestman
Staff writer
With only a limited number of days remaining until schools will once again reopen their doors to welcome students following last year’s March closure due to the corona pandemic, opinions all across this country about reopening are quite mixed. As national and state teacher unions express their concerns, locally teachers seem united in their belief it is time and they are ready.
Mary Bartak, veteran teacher at Pope John High School shared, “I am comfortable “physically” starting and really think the hygiene aspects of washing hands, hands away from the face, ect. will help everyone stay healthier-from all illnesses. I think most kids miss their friends and miss what this stage of life is supposed to be, especially in the high school setting…what’s fall without volleyball and football. I am excited to build on the technology that was embraced in the spring. Many of those practices will help prepare the high school students for college. I am also excited to go to mass as a school, to enjoy the student choir up there leading us in song, and to be able to embrace our faith as we teach. I am a farm girl at heart but….I like the routine and challenge teaching brings.”
Fellow Pope John educator, athletic director, and counselor, Julie Schiltmeyer reinforced her fellow teacher’s feelings of readiness for the school’s return. “I am extremely excited for school to start! I can not wait to be able to see the kids and my co-workers every day.” She knows her own children are also ready and excited to return to school, but believes it will take everyone a bit to get back into a routine. In her opinion, “I think once we get going the kids will have no problem settling into their new routines.” She does feel meeting the needs of the students with the past year being cut short is a concern. She explained, “Some students may need extra help and some students may need extra challenges, finding that balance and making sure all of our students are successful learners is what I feel will be our biggest challenge.”
Speaking of challenges, Elgin High’s Dorothy Heithoff believes accepting challenges, communicating, offering flexibility and possessing a willingness to do things differently are just a few of the valuable lessons that have been learned this past year. She shared how she plans to incorporate those lessons learned during the school closure in her classroom this year. “I have spent quite a bit of time this summer recording instructional lessons and preparing to transition to a flipped classroom setting. This will allow me to spend some more one on one time with my students and answer more of my student’s questions as they work on their assignments.” Mrs. Heithoff hopes this will help the students make the transition back to the classroom after a six month break easier. She also hopes it will allow her to switch back to online learning a little more quickly and smoothly should the need arise again.
Mrs. Heithoff, united in the thought shared by other local teachers, Bartak and Schiltmeyer, concluded “I am ready to get back to school and I think the kids are too.”
The first day of school for all local schools is Thursday, August 13.