One Year Later: Looking back at how the pandemic affected education in Mississippi

One Year Later: Looking back at how the pandemic affected education in Mississippi

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Classrooms across Mississippi have looked a lot different over the last year as school districts have juggled how to keep students safe while also providing them with the best education possible.

Between going back and forth between virtual learning and in-person learning, schools have had to adapt over the course of the pandemic, finding creative ways to teach.

”It seemed very scary in the beginning,” said Gulfport High English teacher Catheryn White. “My classes have always been very group-oriented so you would’ve seen desks thrown together. We used to have these big dry erase boards and it was much more of a group dynamic.”

But COVID-19 changed that.

“Well, I don’t like them all sitting in rows so I want to put them in groups, but how can I do groups and social distance? So I invested in getting the plexiglass,” said White.

White says the pandemic pushed her and her students outside their comfort zone but for the better.

“Starting the year, there was a lot of uncertainty of where we were going and what we were doing,” she said. “We’ve really had to embrace technology in a new way, which has been great. I feel like for the first time, we’re kind of getting an opportunity to meet our students at a different level.”

Most students are now back in the classroom. It’s something teachers like White are grateful to see.

“(When we were doing virtual learning), I really realized that disconnect of wanting to be there with my kids,” said White. “So I started doing videos. I was reading them stories, bedtimes stories - and they’re 16-years-old! But it was because I realized that relationship aspect was so important to me.”

A year later, White is now teaching some students in person, while some are still virtual. She says it’s the village at Gulfport High that has kept her going.

“The one thing that has kind of been my takeaway... This idea that nobody has been left to struggle. Nobody is alone in this. We are all learning. As teachers, we’re all learning. So you’ve got teachers empowering teachers, you got kids who are empowering teachers, and you got kids empowering kids.”

For more stories of hope, survival and loss as we look back at the pandemic over the last year, tune in at 6:30 p.m., March 11, on CBS to watch WLOX’s special report, Mississippi Tested: The COVID Fight Now and in the Future.

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