PERQUIMANS, N.C. (WAVY) — At the start of 2022, the National Educators Association surveyed nearly 3 million educators.

55 percent of respondents said they may leave teaching earlier than planned, largely because of challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are, of course, many teachers who stay and fight through the challenges.

One North Carolina teacher actually got back into the industry in the middle of the pandemic.

Robin Copeland is an elementary school art teacher at Hertford Grammar School in Perquimans County. Her classroom is a room full of color, wonder, fun, and self-expression. It’s a place to learn, try and grow.

“We’ve done clay, we’ve done weaving, painting, chalk, pastels, all different types of media,” Copeland said. “I want to get them experimenting with everything they can do see where their talents are.”

Copeland got back into the classroom in the fall of 2021 after seven years away. She said, “I have kids of my own but I like being with other kids, interacting with other kids and creating art with them.”

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She’s now in her fifth year of teaching.

Even in a pandemic, knowing there would be challenges, she followed her calling.

“Every single kid has a talent, and whether they know it or not,” Copeland said. “It’s just fun to see them experiment and find that talent.”

Her students are grateful.

“She’s the best art teacher,” said fifth grader Casey. “She helps out a lot and does so much to help us and figure out what we’re doing.”

But for Copeland, it’s about more than just ‘helping out’ her students, it’s seeing them grow.

“They might struggle in a certain subject or sport but when they come to art, they excel, and just seeing that confidence when they go to other areas and impact those other areas, it makes a difference,” Copeland said.