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Teacher in training meets students for the first time

Albuquerque High School’s library was set up to distance students as a coronavirus mitigation effort. Students came back on Monday and teacher in training Alicia Lopez met some of them for the first time. (Courtesy Alicia Lopez)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Alicia Lopez has been told more than once that if she can get through this school year, she can get through anything.

There have been plenty of curve balls for Albuquerque Public Schools this academic year, from virtual learning to starting full in-person classes on Monday.

Lopez, who embarked on a new career in education last year when the effects of COVID-19 were in full force for schools, finally got to see co-workers and some students this week for the first time.

She is halfway through a program that allows new special education teaching candidates to get hands-on experience with a teacher while doing coursework to become a teacher. But, up until Monday, she had worked with students mostly from a distance because of the pandemic.

Lopez was a stranger to online schooling before this – both as a student and as an educator. But she ended up taking classes online to get her teaching license and co-teaching students virtually.

“I feel like this year has been difficult because I’ve just been sitting down in front of my computer 24/7,” she said.

That changed this week when APS campuses reopened and Lopez was able to work face-to-face with about half of the students in each of her classes – the highlight of her first day back.

“Having started a new career in this kind of environment – not getting to meet my colleagues and the students – it was really nice to get to actually meet people, even with the (COVID) restrictions,” she said.

There were also some challenges. Lopez, who works with 11th grade students at Albuquerque High School, was affected by internet connectivity issues, like many other educators in APS on Monday.

“Half of my students are online and I really couldn’t give them the attention that they deserved,” she said. “But we kind of planned for those problems, anyway … Monday was really a day to just get to know each other.”

APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said the system was up and running as of about 9 a.m. Tuesday. The cause of the problem was unclear, she said.

There was a lot on Lopez’s mind as she prepared for Monday – such as whether students will follow COVID-safe precautions, navigating the building she had been to just a handful of times, and how she would give equal attention to in-person and at-home learners. But, by the end of the day, having seen students follow protocols and finishing her first day of in-person teaching, she felt exhaustion mixed with a sense of accomplishment.

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