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Education

First-Year Teacher Diaries: ‘Officially Done With An Insane Year’

Zachary Udell, a fourth grade teacher at Froebel Elementary School in St. Louis' Gravois Park neighborhood, on May 20, 2021.
Ryan Delaney
/
St. Louis Public Radio
First-year teacher Zachary Udell in his classroom at Froebel Elementary School in St. Louis' Gravois Park neighborhood. Udell didn't have students in his room until halfway through the year, when 11 of his 28 students returned.

Another anything-but-normal school year is coming to a close. It was especially tough for new educators, who had no experience to fall back on and had to ride the pandemic’s tsunami while navigating the already choppy waters of first-year teaching.

To try to capture it all, St. Louis Public Radio asked first-year teachers in the St. Louis region to pick up their phones from time to time and record audio diaries.

We learned that this school year they prepped their classrooms, only to have them sit empty for months. Then they made two sets of lesson plans, one for the students coming to class and another for those still at home. They met some of their students for the first time in April.

Their patience was tested, by bullying, technology and constantly having to nag kids to fix their masks. But they made it to the final day of school and are very, very ready for summer vacation. And most important, they’ve learned and grown and expect to be back at the front of the classroom in the fall.

You can listen back to our first two installments of the teacher diaries here and here.

Zachary Udell outside Froebel Elementary School Sept. 16, 2020, before starting his first year as a teacher.
Ryan Delaney
Zachary Udell outside Froebel Elementary School in September before starting his first year as a teacher.

Zachary Udell: A close bond with the in-person students
Udell shares his thoughts on wrapping up his first year as a teacher. He taught fourth grade at Froebel Elementary School in St. Louis’ Gravois Park neighborhood.

Becky Oleksiw stands outside Hoech Middle School in St. Ann on Jan. 6, 2020. Oleksiw was in her first year teaching.
Ryan Delaney
Becky Oleksiw stands outside Hoech Middle School in St. Ann in January. She began her education career teaching eighth grade.

Becky Oleksiw: Making life-long teacher friends
Oleksiw, or "Mrs. O" to her eighth grade students at Hoech Middle in the Ritenour School District, shares her final thoughts on an emotional first year.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

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