Eye on KELOLAND: Teaching through a crisis


MITCHELL, S.D. (KELO) – Many KELOLAND Schools are heading into their fifth week of distance learning. Teachers are still adjusting to online classes, especially when it comes to engaging and getting creative with their students.

Working from home is a huge adjustment for many people right now and that includes teachers across KELOLAND who are working through the quick transition to bring some sort of normalcy to their students.

“When we got out of school on the 13th, I would’ve never dreamed that this would happen,” Kris Borgan said.

Kris Borgan is a second-grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary in Mitchell. Her husband Jeremy Borgan is a physical education teacher at both Longfellow and Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary in Mitchell. In addition to transitioning their work life, they also have two children now learning from home.

“We try to do most of our work, their work and our work, in the morning and then Jeremy’s really good about getting them outside in the afternoon to get some physical exercise,” Kris Borgan said.

When it comes to their students, lesson plans are focused on consistency. They also want to be understanding of the difficulties each family is seeing during this time.

“I do a Zoom meeting every morning at 10 with my students just because I feel like them seeing me everyday, and seeing their classmates, is important just so that they have that teeny tiny bit of consistency,” Kris Borgan said.

“For me, I’ve used YouTube a lot more. Obviously trying to get it to 450 kids is kind of tough, so I found that to probably be the best outlet to consistently do that without tying the teacher into it. Probably haven’t had as much success as I’d like to see on the return as emailing assignments back, but understanding the situation. It’s one of those things that you really just have to roll with,” Jeremy Borgan said.

Kelsie Mastel, a fourth grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary, feels the same way about her curriculum.

“I’ve been trying to keep my learning pretty routine for the kids so that when they log in each day, they kind of know what exactly to expect so it’s not a guessing game each day for them,” Mastel said.

Before schools closed, Mastel liked to get creative in her classroom. Now she’s had to dial that back.

“Personally, I’ve just been prioritizing math and reading because those are the core subjects and then I do science like two times a week and writing two or three times a week. I’ve been trying not to push too much content on them. I think right now, it’s just a time for us to just be reviewing,” Mastel said.

The hardest part for these three educators, though, is not being able to see their students’ faces.

“We’re hoping that when this all blows over, I can meet them in the park or something with some pizza just because we never really got to say goodbye and that part’s really hard,” Kris Borgan said.

“The best part of my days is when we get to do online meetings with them and I get to see their faces and they show me their pets and we do home scavenger hunts and I just miss them so much,” Mastel said.

Teachers all across the nation are doing what they can to provide an education for their students outside of the classroom.

“If you’re wondering if you’re doing the right thing, you just kind of have to follow your gut. You know your students better than anybody and keeping things simple, but yet showing up for them and knowing that you still want them to learn and you care about their well-being as a whole would be my best advice,” Kris Borgan said.

“You’re all working so hard and so great and I know that this doesn’t replace real learning, but we’re doing what we can,” Mastel said.

In this unprecedented time, both students and teachers are learning as they go.

And as parents themselves, the Borgans want to remind other parents that the main focus of educators right now is their students.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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