Teach For America Teacher Shares Impact of COVID-19 on Teaching, Students

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April is the Month of the Young Child. While Helios’ work focuses on ensuring students in Arizona and Florida are prepared to succeed in postsecondary education, we know that preparation begins with a solid foundation during the early grades. 

The COVID-19 pandemic upended everyone’s lives, and students were hit especially hard. We know students and educators had to pivot especially quickly and digital learning and blended learning has become a new normal. We were eager to hear how things were going for young students, and were able to connect with Teach for America – Miami-Dade corps member AnnElise Acosta and ask her some questions about how things have been going for her this year. She is a first year, second grade teacher at Jesse J. McCreary Elementary.  

Below are her answers to some of our questions. 

1. What led you to teaching, and in particular, second grade? 

I came into teaching after a couple of years spent working in summer camps and after school programming. I've worked with both elementary and middle school students, and I love the unique opportunities for community and growth in primary grades. I have a group of incredibly curious, reflective, and flexible students who amaze me every single day. My students have an energy and enthusiasm for rigorous academic work that has created a cohesive, caring community in our classroom.  


2. What techniques or strategies do you rely on to engage and affirm young learners? 

I have worked with my students to build a culture of growth-mindset and celebration in our classroom. We do group cheers, rounds of applause, and shoutouts every day to celebrate our successes, our progress, and any bright spots. My students know that they'll be celebrated for their problem-solving process, not just for getting the correct answer written down. Maintaining this mindset has kept my classroom moving forward and my students engaged. 


3. This has been a challenging year – how do you stay motivated? 

I teach second grade, so my students only had a year and a half of "normal school" before the entire world changed due to COVID-19. Some of my students haven't been in a school building in over a year. This motivates me to plan meaningful lessons and to make my classroom a place where my students want to be! I have the immense privilege to be a part of their world during an unprecedented year, and I hope that they remember second grade as a year where they really loved coming to math class. 


4. Can you share a success story or bright spot from your classroom? 

When we started the school year, only a handful of my students were reading fluently. Over the course of the year, I have seen many of my students grow into fluent readers. Reading is something that I loved as a kid (and still do!), and it's incredibly cool to see my students falling in love with the magic of books and independent reading.