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A 4J Teacher’s Thoughts on Hybrid Learning

Imelda Cortez

As Oregon districts shift some class time back into school buildings, one Eugene educator shares what teaching over the past year has been like, and what to expect.

Imelda Cortez teaches sixth grade Spanish immersion at Kelly Middle School, and is Vice President of the Eugene Education Association. She said getting online systems working for herself and her students continues to have bumps, and she’s been teaching to a grid of mostly black rectangles.

“I don’t force them to turn their cameras on," she said, "I totally get it. They’re in their homes, some kids don’t want to show their home, right, especially depending on their living situation.”


Cortez became emotional, sharing how that disconnect has been the toughest part of the pandemic, “…especially my LatinX students, because I see myself reflected in them and want them to have a better experience than I did. And it’s really hard for me knowing that I could be at a grocery store and not recognize my own students.”


Cortez said her experience isn’t unique. “I think most teachers would argue that this is the hardest year of teaching that they’ve ever experienced," she told KLCC, "even harder than your first year. There have been times where I’ve wanted to quit.”



Credit Karen Richards
Kelly Middle School

Cortez said teaching in hybrid mode will help, but cautioned parents and students to keep their expectations in check.

“It’s not going to be school like normal," she warned. "They’re going to have to maintain six feet apart, they’re going to be wearing masks, they probably won’t be able to eat lunch with their friends.”


She’s not sure how to handle teaching if she has to film herself live in class for the part of her cohort that’s learning from home that day. 


“Right now I can monitor the chat in Zoom," said Cortez. "If they have questions they can send me a private message and be like, ‘hey I don’t understand this,’ and discreetly do that. Whereas if I were simultaneously doing it, I don’t feel like I could give them the attention that they deserve and need.”


In her work with Eugene 4J on models for bringing middle and high schoolers back into buildings, Cortez hopes the administration keeps student mental health in mind. “I think the biggest thing is our ‘why,’" she said. "Why are we bringing kids back? What’s the priority? Is it academics, or is it what ODE (the Oregon Department of Education) says matters most, which is the community building, the relationships, and kids’ emotional well being?” 


Cortez said she wants to focus on having her students feel heard and feel like they matter. She admitted she looks forward to connecting with her coworkers too.  

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.
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