What is more normal — and expected — each end of summer than students and teachers to return to school. So far, the coronavirus crisis has killed an estimated 180,000 so far within United States borders. And in some cases, public school teachers have been deemed “essential workers” and told to return to classrooms — even if they’ve been exposed to Covid-19.

On Thursday, August 20th, we gathered six experts — including educators and parents — to discuss their anxieties, hopes, and coping skills for the return to school this fall with the coronavirus pandemic unabated. Some are dealing with quarantine restrictions, others with the logistics of students in rural or urban environments in person or through virtual learning platforms. All of them are attempting to model good hygiene and habits during the pandemic so that they can make sure they all have safe and productive learning environments.

Meet Our Panelists:

Laura Dow lives in Pawcatuck, CT, and she teaches at Stonington High School. She teaches 9th-12th grades special education in the self-contained setting, as well as transition support for 18-21 year olds with disabilities. She has her BA in Special Education from Hope College and and her M. Ed. in Special Education with an Inclusion Specialist Certificate from University of Michigan Dearborn.  

Lynette Guastaferro is the Chief Executive Officer of Teaching Matters, a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing teacher effectiveness to improve student success.  Teaching Matters mission is to close the opportunity gap of a radically unequal education system for under-served and historically marginalized children.  She has over 25 years of experience in education, non-profit and private industry. 

Ashley Graves is a Secondary Self-Contained Special Education Teacher with Uplift Education and is a third year fellow with Urban Teachers at a public charter school in the Dallas, Texas area. Urban Teachers is a teacher preparation program that serves students from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds to provide an education that specializes in diversity, inclusion, and equity. 

Mitch Springer currently serves as principal of Villa Rica Middle School in Villa Rica, Georgia, in the Carroll County School District which is located 40 miles west of Atlanta and serves a population of students from rural and suburban backgrounds.. He’s a graduate of the University of Georgia and has served as a middle grades teacher, elementary assistant principal, and principal before transitioning to the role of a middle school principal. 

Christine Tang is the Executive Director of Families of Color Seattle (FOCS), a community-based organization that advocates for racial equity and supports families of color in the Seattle area through equitable parent programs, resource sharing, and fostering meaningful connections. She is a parent of two elementary school-aged children.  

Katherine Ann Unsicker, Ed S. Teacher Leadership, is a gifted teacher with Haralson County Schools, which serves the communities of Buchanan, Tallapoosa, and Waco, Georgia. She’s the mother of five and has been teaching both in-person and virtually.

The panelists touched on a wide range of topics — from procuring PPE for themselves, the students, and their classroom, to how to handle attendance and students’ individual progress during the pandemic — that offered a mix of frustration in regards to misinformation, confusion as to how to handle individual students’ needs, and hope for the future.

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