US teachers had days to re-define class amid a nationwide crisis. The weeks stuck in limbo haven't been easy
Updated 4:00 AM ET, Sun April 5, 2020
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(CNN)Kevin Klemm is going into his third week of teaching from home.
Since the first day the Illinois social studies teacher found out schools were shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was no time to pause and think.
"This is really tough when we're being taken away from what we normally do ... knowing how much importance we have on kids' daily lives," he said.
Now at least 124,000 schools have been shuttered across the US in hopes of slowing the spread of coronavirus, according to Education Week. At least ten states have already announced students will not be going back to class this year.
But for many educators who, like Klemm, had days to go online, the transition has been overwhelming. Moving around their classroom and looking over students' shoulders has turned into answering emails, recording quick lessons and putting together homework packets often delivered by teachers themselves to students' doorsteps.
The biggest challenge for most educators has been being away from their class.
"School is the only good thing for some of them, whether it's the best meals they have or the only meals they have," Klemm says of his students.
"It may be that we are the people they need to see with a smile on their face to realize that everything is going to be okay."
'We're a family'
Trying to recreate a sense of normalcy amid an unprecedented global crisis, teachers turned to all kinds of online tools to stay in touch with their class.
"Just being able to see someone in person matters a whole lot. I hope people don't take things for granted. Whenever something horrible happens, I think people learn lessons," Staci Scott-Stewart, a third-grade teacher in Indiana, says.
"For these kids, this will be a major event in their life. I want to make sure that I do it right for the kids. Twenty years from now I want them to say Mrs. Scott-Stewart was there even though we couldn't be together," she says.
Indiana leaders announced last week school closures would last through the end of the academic year. Scott-Stewart, who's been a teacher for nearly 25 years and says was never "super techy," has resorted to Zoom meetings to keep a sense of community.
"I'm trying to figure out how to manage 24 kids who are so excited to see each other. I'm doing one every week," she says. "That's when I ask for feedback from parents. What went well, what was a challenge and what do you want me to do more of? The parents said the students just want to see you."
In Georgia, special education teacher Lisa Cumberland says she tries to video chat with her elementary school students at least once a week.