Excellent Educators: Portsmouth teacher Carolyn Meehan kept students engaged during virtual learning

Excellent Educators

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — On an early spring day at John Tyler Elementary, the hallways echo empty. In room 220, Carolyn Meehan teaches to an empty classroom full of students.

Today’s lesson, time.

“It didn’t take them much time to realize that this is still John Tyler, this is still a teacher I used to see all the time, [and] this still feels like a class,” Meehan said.

The third grade teacher at John Tyler Elementary in Portsmouth kept to normalcy during such an unnormal year. To keep the trust of her students she did the things that were always done in the classroom: class meetings, birthdays, holiday parties, rewards for good behavior, school events, this list goes on. 

But more importantly, Meehan says teaching during the pandemic really came down to the relationships with her students and their families.

“It couldn’t always just be about school first, it couldn’t always just be about the assignment or the work first,” added Meehan. “There’s things that are going on that the kids need to understand, so we have to not be afraid to talk to them about these things, we just have to find the right way to do it.”

During a year where time has tested us all, time has never been more precious than in the classroom.

“It’s different in the classroom to see a student and realize they need you right then,” said Meehan. “But they’re getting off Zoom, so you have to think of how they’re leaving you for that short amount of time each day.”

And to top it all off, Meehan still found a way to do the fourth annual science fair, where she gathered nearly 200 kids between grades three and six to participate. About 50 teachers and volunteers from the community judged the projects the students presented virtually, as they traded the big tri-fold boards for Google Slides.

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