New Shorecrest Teachers Amidst COVID

By: Athena Smith

If you’ve been at Shorecrest since the 2019-2020 school year, you probably remember Don Paige’s infamous talk in the theater. To the Upper School, he explained the probable chance that Shorecrest would shut down due to COVID-19. Being the naive sophomore I was, I didn’t take that possibility as seriously as I should have. Now, I doubt I’ll ever be able to forget March 13, 2020. 

For the rest of the school year, we conducted our learning online. The situation was totally unprecedented, so every new change we made was implemented for the first time ever and at a rapid pace. I think it’s unquestionable that Don Paige, Nurse Conroy, and the rest of our community weathered that problem extremely well. School initially closed 612 days ago, and since then, life at Shorecrest has undergone a number of changes. In-person school has returned, and many people have come off of Flex Learning. Vaccines are widely available and received among the Shorecrest community. Although we still wear masks, socially distance, and remain conscious of COVID-19, we’ve come a long way in facing this unexpected adjustment. 

A specific subset of our community has a unique perspective on life here since the pandemic: faculty who have joined since COVID hit. I was curious about how they’ve adapted to COVID and the measures Shorecrest takes against it, as well as what it’s been like to join us at such an unusual time. Brian Potter-Racine, Chair of the Science Department and a physics teacher who joined our community this year, said that “Given that the current academic year began post-vaccination, adapting to teaching at Shorecrest has been little more than adapting to wearing a mask indoors.” He had been doing this at his previous job, so it required almost no adjustment to continue this practice at Shorecrest. “Teaching students who have been quarantined at home has been more of an adjustment,” he added, “because of not having used Webex before in this capacity.” Potter-Racine described how he has “some reservations about the possibility that COVID measures might be removed during the spring semester,” a subject which he says he’s sure is “being weighed heavily by the task force.”

“The most difficult part of starting a new teaching job during COVID was the inability to see the faces of my students, colleagues and vice versa,” said Kayla Brazee, a history teacher in the Upper School who began last year. “I didn’t know them, so not being able to see one another’s reactions, smiles, emotions, etc. was very hard.” Brazee said this became much easier with time. She appreciates how “the faculty all work together to remind students to keep their masks in place,” and she has a positive outlook on many of the results of the adjustments the pandemic created, saying it encouraged her to think outside the box when it came to her teaching. “At this point,” she said, “I feel like I could handle most any teaching situation that is thrown my way.” Brazee also noted that at Shorecrest, there’s “an ample amount of outdoor space to utilize,” and that “we’re in a climate that is pleasant most of the year.” This is conducive toward slowing the spread of the virus and gives the school a way to still hold larger group events, such as Homecoming or Commencement, which are essential parts of the high school experience.  

Natalie Updike, an English teacher in the Upper School, described that her “first year at Shorecrest was also the first year of the flex learning program for the 2020-2021 school year….I appreciate how seriously Shorecrest took and is still taking the pandemic,” she said, “but of my decade of teaching experience, last year was definitely the most difficult one I’ve ever lived through.” She feels as though she’s still transitioning from her change in schools, and that COVID robbed her of “some of the joyous moments within a typical job experience.” Shorecrest’s mask policy is one of the biggest reliefs to her as a teacher. “I am glad we’re following the way of factual science,” she reflected. Within this experience overall, she believes that there has been “a level of kindness and gratitude that we should keep following post-COVID, whenever that may be.”

It’s difficult to predict exactly where the spring semester will take our community, but we’ve certainly made it this far. The perspectives of new faculty are hopeful and reflect the rationality and efficacy of the measures Shorecrest is taking at present. Whatever challenges or successes we’ll find on our journey to coming out of this pandemic will improve the resilience and resourcefulness of our community far into the future, allowing us to take on whatever else comes our way.

Curious about Shorecrest’s COVID policies? Here’s our COVID Handbook.

(Photo: Public Domain)

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