Niles West Teachers Voice Their Excitement and Concerns About in-Person Teaching


By Celina Saba, Staff Writer

Hybrid Learning has begun at D219 high schools Niles West and Niles North. With that, most teachers and staff have returned to in-person teaching, with the exception of those who have personal and/or health concerns about returning. For the teachers who returned to in-person, many shared an excited and hopeful sentiment for hybrid learning. 

 “I am so unbelievably excited to be back in the building with students in my classroom! It has made me so happy to meet students in-person for the first time, and hopefully demonstrates that it is safe to learn in-person and much more beneficial to their learning than being at home on Zoom,” Social Studies Instructor Lauren Flahive said. “Although so few students opted in, I hope in the coming weeks more students join us in-person, or our district moves to a full day schedule, which I believe will attract more students to return.”

While teachers are excited to see their students in-person, some are disappointed by the overall turnout. 

“My first week back into the building was very exciting and a little disappointing. I was excited to see students, even if they were not mine. I said hello to everyone I saw in the hallway. I hope they know that I was smiling behind my mask! I was also a bit disappointed to see that I only had one student in my class,” Mathematics Instructor Daniel Larrabee said. “I completely understand and respect the decisions families and students had to make that resulted in such a low turnout. I guess I just got my hopes up. After all, the relationships I get the chance to build with students are the primary reason I love my job. I’m optimistic that normalcy is just around the corner.” 

Some teachers voiced concern about participation from remote students versus in-person students. 

“I am so happy to see students’ faces again. I quickly remembered why I do this and what I love about it – the students and the relationships that are built. While I enjoy teaching accounting, doing it without student participation and presence is just not very rewarding. My main concern is that it is very natural to focus on the students in front of me and kind of detach from the remote students,” Accounting Instructor Eric Lueder said. “It is difficult to talk to a black screen with a name on it and wait for an answer in chat, and sometimes never getting it when I can just ask the students in the class. I hope that more can come into class, but I understand it’s just not possible for some. I will continue to do my best to engage everyone as best I can, but being back with people again certainly provides me with a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm.”

Coming back in-person means dealing with more technology, and as a result, facing more technical difficulties. Teachers are slowly adjusting to their new teaching environment. 

“I am ecstatic to be back! This is what I signed up to do: teaching in-person. There is an energy in the physical classroom that is lacking on Zoom. I realize many students and staff are still concerned about safety, but I’m hoping as more people are vaccinated, and the weather improves, more students will return to school,” English Instructor Michelle Hettinger said. “Navigating between Zoom students and physical students is a little unnatural, and adjusting audio, camera and screens hold slight challenges, but it is so worth it.”