Alabama Elementary Teachers Share Perspectives from the COVID Classroom

As many Alabama students are finishing up their first 9 weeks of school, we wanted to check in with teachers to hear their perspectives from the front lines of their COVID classrooms. School looks different across the state right now, depending on the district and their COVID plans. It’s important to hear the diverse perspectives of these educators.

We reached out to a few elementary teachers in several districts with different implementation models.They shared how the year is going so far. We will be reaching out to additional teachers for more perspectives as the year progresses.

1. How are your students doing during this time?

“They are coping. They miss socialization during lunch and break. They miss their friends that are doing remote learning. And, secretly, I think they missed their teachers. Surprisingly, they are tired of doing everything on the computer. They do have to wear masks and we sanitize frequently, but they are actively engaged and collaborating safely. 

My remote students are also doing well. Most of them are learning to manage their time more efficiently, which is a great soft skill needed in the workforce. Because they are remote, it has been difficult to provide the same type of opportunities as the in-school students. Their favorite, and mine, are the challenges where they are given a real-world scenario and they have to design and create a solution. Even though they are participating in different projects, the premise is the same and they still feel like part of our class. I share completed projects with in-school learners and remote students. By doing this, I hope to build a sense of community between the students.”

Jennifer Priest (Blount County STEAM Lab)


“My virtual students are coping very well during this time of transition. The beginning of virtual school was tough for everyone, but just like the classroom, procedures and expectations were set, and most of the students rose above the expected expectations. The students had the opportunity to return to traditional schooling for the second nine weeks, but I had over half continue virtual with me. This decision was based upon many decisions, but multiple parents told me it was due to the platform that I was teaching on, the way that I was teaching, and how I was teaching that made the decision to stay virtual much easier.”

Emily Carmichael (4th grade, Harlan Elementary, Florence City Schools)

2. What have been the greatest challenges you have faced this school year?

“My classroom is designed to be hands-on and cooperative. With COVID-19, I did not feel that I could safely do either. My students would normally rotate through my classroom and work with a small group of students, all using the same building materials. To allow my students to safely participate in building stations, I made 10 boxes of each of my five stations. I could have 5 boxes in use while the other 5 were being sanitized. Instead of students switching from table to table, they switched boxes. I also ended up taping work squares around my room that were 6 feet apart, so students could work in an assigned spot.”

Jennifer Kennedy (SPARK Academy at Cowart Elementary, Athens City Schools)


“Communication – knowing who to reach, where the student is staying that week or weekend, which phone numbers work or do not, and at times not being answered at all. Another challenge has been students not completing work.”

Emily Carmichael (4th grade, Harlan Elementary, Florence City Schools)

3. What are some silver linings that may have come from this experience?

Teaching children that the difficult things we are doing such as wearing a mask, not giving physical hugs, distancing in line, etc., are all ways of showing care and concern for one another. Consideration of others is a character trait that we are able to emphasize daily.”

Crystal Delano (1st Grade, Harlan Elementary, Florence City Schools)


“One silver lining that I found is that students missed coming to school. Even though we did not ask for the almost 5-month break, I do think it made the students realize that they need school for several reasons, both intellectually and emotionally. I would say that is true for most teachers as well. We missed our students and worried about them while we were apart. I also think that distance learning has highlighted the inequities in our communities. We realized that many of our students do not have internet access. I am grateful that the Governor provided free internet waivers to our students. However, it takes time to install. And, even with free access, sometimes the service or reception isn’t good enough to run their device. It’s not perfect, but we hope that it helps all of our students have access to learning opportunities.”

Jennifer Priest (Blount County STEAM Lab)

4. What are some practices you’ve implemented during COVID-19 that you might continue to use after?

Our new learning management system has been a great addition.  The kids need to be in a learning environment whether we are in-person or remote. I like to be able to utilize the remote assessment features because it allows me to maximize instructional time. Anything that allows me to spend more time with my students teaching is a benefit.” 

Chad Sears (2nd Grade, Harlan Elementary, Florence City Schools)


“One-on-one google meet conferences with the parents are something that I will most definitely use, virtual or traditional. Almost all of our parents have jobs, and each parent’s hours may differ, but we can always find time to talk over video conference, even for just five to ten minutes. Using the “present screen” tool that Google Meet provides, I am able to directly show the parents data in a much easier, more efficient and organized way. This will be useful if they cannot make it up to the school, or if we simply need to talk without waiting for a “parent-teacher conference” date.”

Emily Carmichael (4th grade, Harlan Elementary, Florence City Schools)

5. How can people in your community best support  you right now?

“I think the best support that we can get from the community, parents, and students is to just give us grace. This is a strange year for everyone. Our teachers are teaching both in-class and remotely. We have a new learning management system this year and we had very little training and very little time to plan before the students came back. We are trying our best to do what is most effective for both settings. We are dealing with students being quarantined because of exposure, trying to do school work with no Internet, and parents who are not at home because they have to work. I also think that grace extends both ways. We have to give grace to these students and parents who are trying their best in an impossible circumstance.” 

Jennifer Priest (Blount County STEAM Lab)


“Realize that we are truly doing the best we can, each and every day. Teachers and administrators are under tremendous pressure, caring for the health of their students, their own health, and the health of their family. Please keep wearing your masks and encourage your children to do the same.”

Jennifer Kennedy (SPARK Academy at Cowart Elementary, Athens City Schools)


About the Teachers

Crystal Delano is a 1st grade teacher at Harlan Elementary School in Florence City Schools. 

Jennifer Priest teaches in Blount County’s STEAM lab for 5th-8th graders. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and was the 2015 Alabama Elementary Science Teacher of the Year as well as the 2018-19 Blount County Teacher of the Year.

Emily Carmichael is a 4th grade teacher at Harlan Elementary School in Florence City Schools. 

Jennifer Kennedy is the STEM Specialist at SPARK Academy at Cowart Elementary in Athens City Schools. 

Chad Sears is a 2nd grade teacher at Harlan Elementary School in Florence City Schools.