Empty Halls: Local educators reflect on academic life during pandemic

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Schools around the county may have empty halls, but education continues via multiple online resources.

As school facilities officially close for the year, and teachers and administrators prepare to finish the year via distance learning methods, a few area teachers share their views on academic life in the pandemic.

Good Hope Primary School First Grade Teacher April Bowen German

“The day Governor Ivey made the announcement was a sad day for those of us in education, as well as the students. Although I understand the reason, because the kids’ safety comes first always, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. 

“It’s always hard to say goodbye at the end of the year, because you become a family. But at least you have time to prepare yourself; I wasn’t prepared for this. 

“I’m extremely thankful for the use of technology right now, because I have been able to communicate with my students that way, but it still isn’t the same as seeing them face to face, or getting those sweet hugs that I looked forward to everyday!”

Cullman High School Principal Kim Hall

“I am so encouraged by the teamwork exhibited by our school system and our teachers.  I am broken-hearted for all those personally impacted by this horrible pandemic and I pray for those workers fighting this battle on the frontlines.  My heart aches for the Class of 2020 and we miss all of our students tremendously. I pray that everyone does their part to mitigate the spread of this virus so we can be with each other again soon.”

Cullman High School Choral Director Sarah Jane Skinner

“My administration has been wonderfully supportive in this time and have provided ways through our one-to-one technology plan to continue instruction. I already miss my students terribly, especially my seniors, but I completely agree with all of the safety decisions made. 

“With the fine arts, especially choral music and theatre, it is more about the process than the product. Although the choral and theatre productions we have been working on will not occur, I am incredibly thankful for the memories we were able to create in the rehearsals we were able to have. 

“We are now focusing on honing individual skills through google classroom assignments, and although we would much rather be singing and performing together, I am so glad that we are taking these measures to stay safe.”

Cullman High School Theatre Director Wayne Cook

“We were looking forward to presenting Bright Star, but I told students that their health and well-being is much more important right now. It has stopped many of us in our tracks but at CHS and CCS – the planning has been tremendous. Our principal put things in place before we left the campus, so that we were in a much better place than most. We also have tremendous access to technology, and my classes, along with a large percentage of others on our campus, were already using online learning. I took my Google pass room format and adjusted to our needs at this time. 

“I’m also blessed with professional organizations that support Theatre Education. I have more options for teaching than I could ever consider using. 

“The biggest loss for us is the financial support we rely on when we do a show. This support keeps us going from year to year. I’m not sure how we will handle that but, we will make adjustments and get creative. I feel as if the community will rise up and help at the appropriate time.”

West Point English Teacher, Scholars’ Bowl Coach Lee Henry

“Personally, I know how hard my students worked and how much they learned this year. I’m not so concerned about them falling behind in education. Instead, I mourn for their lost experiences and the unfair denial of their rites of passage. 

“I teach a lot of seniors. My heart hurts for them so much. The idea that they ate their last lunch together, played their last games together, performed their last concerts together, etc. and never even realized it was their last is what hurts the most. I’d do anything to give them those experiences back.  

“Academically, they will be fine. But we can never replace those experiences. And that’s a tragedy.”

Cullman Area Technology Academy Principal Billy Troutman

“CTE (Career & Technical Education) courses are centered around hands-on activity and formative assessment.  Learning how to weld requires practice and then building upon that practice. This is the case for all CTE programs in general.  With the current conditions, CTE teachers will shift these last few weeks of instruction around theory. We will be preparing on-line assignments and paper packets for those students. CTE instructors will spend time communicating with students via phone or email. Our biggest push now will be offering credentials to students through digital platforms and/or hands-on assessment maybe in June before the end of SY 2020.  

“The biggest impact is probably the things we took for granted.  Seeing students each day, shaking their hands, seeing them smile and the hustle and bustle of day to day school.  CATA students have found a niche at our school and are excited to be working and building a platform for future success. These few weeks or even months not at school will be a setback, but nothing that we won’t overcome and be better off in the end.  

“We are dedicated to following the COVID-19 safety protocols and will be ready and waiting for next fall!”

Cold Springs High School Principal Eric Dickerson

“It is hard to believe that it has only been two weeks since the schools were dismissed, as it has seemed like two years. The hardest part of this has been not being able to see the kids every day, the school buildings are still here but the energy and spirit that is lacking without the students and staff is undeniable. However, we are going to do everything can during this time to make sure the students receive the best education possible under these circumstances. Our system has developed a plan for how we will proceed and we will begin introducing that next week to our parents and students. We will make the best out of this situation that we have been given and we look forward to returning to normalcy in the near future.”

Fairview Elementary Principal Marty Hardman

“Like everyone else, it’s one of the saddest situations I’ve ever had to deal with in education. We have been in the planning stages of finishing this school year under Dr. (Shane) Barnette’s leadership and like everyone else, it feels it changes every day, it seems like due to unforeseen consequences, but we do have a plan in place that we will be getting out to folks on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. Obviously, when we do return to school, we will be doing a lot of remediation and reviewing to make up for this time that we missed. We just hope that all the kids are safe and well and we ask that if they need anything that they can call us, starting on Monday (April 6, 2020) from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the school, they can go on our website if they do not know our email address and email us with any concerns, and I will be doing an all-call eventually with plans for what the next few days, weeks and months are going to look like as far as school.”

Cullman City Primary School Principal Tricia Culpepper

“We always want to keep our families safe and protected, so this was a necessary closure, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, but we have a really good method for delivering instruction and our teachers have worked night and day the last two weeks in order to come up with a good plan. It’s brought us, we have always been a close-knit faculty, but this even though we’re apart physically, it’s really brought us together, and we’re just committed to our families and to our students.”

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W.C. Mann



Maggie Darnell