COVID-19: The challenge of providing children an education during a pandemic

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Life changed a lot over the past 12 months.

Samantha and Derrek Vollmar, who are both teachers and parents, had to get creative to make things work.

"The word I keep thinking of is adaptability for teachers and students," Derrek said.

"I have students who are taking care of younger siblings at home, while their parents are working, and we have parents working with five kids in one setting so, you know, there have been many challenges with that." Samantha added.

Many of the challenges of virtual learning are showing up on report cards. According to data provided to the state legislature, as many as four in five New Mexico students are failing at least one class.

The Vollmars said they’ve had to get created to keep their students engaged.

Derrek said he’s even dressed up as superheroes to keep his students focused.

Samantha said she’s doing her best to connect with her 7th and 8th grade English students, who she has never met outside the virtual classroom.

"I miss being in that classroom so much so I can read, and I can tell when a kid is just not getting something, and on a screen that is so much harder, not impossible, but it’s harder," she said.

In addition to teaching other children, the Vollmars have to make sure their children are getting an education at home.

Their oldest child, chandler, is in kindergarten.

"A lot is asked of parents, and it can be overwhelming, and I say that as a kindergarten teacher, and she’s in kindergarten. So I should know exactly what’s going on all the time, and there are moments where I’m like ‘oh, yes, we have to do this, we have to do that.’ and yes, we miss things all the time, and I might think of it because I’m thinking of my own class and not anything to do with her."

Virtual learning isn’t all bad. Some students have become a lot more independent.

Chandler logs herself into her classroom every day.

And when time is short, the Vollmars say they’ve realized what has to be taught versus what would be nice to include in a lesson.

However, while there are benefits, many admit there is no replacing the in-person connection a student has with their teacher.

"It’s not where the heart is, and I just hope we can continue to prioritize relationships because that’s what’s worked online, that’s what works in the classroom, we can prioritize those essential standards we think is most important," Samantha said.

Samantha and Derrek are not alone in the challenges they faced. Thousands of New Mexicans had to work and teach their children.

The couple hopes we all learned from this moment.

"We’re doing the best we can, this is a crazy year, you know, we will work through this and get through it together," Derrek said.