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Teacher Appreciation Week: Waxhaw elementary teacher reflects on pandemic

A fourth-grade teacher from Rea View Elementary shares what this year has been like teaching during the pandemic.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Monday marks the start of Teacher Appreciation Week and WCNC Charlotte is spotlighting incredible teachers from across the Carolinas. 

Mrs. Candace Purcell has been teaching for the last two decades. Purcell is currently a fourth-grade teacher at Rea View Elementary in Union County. And this year, as you might expect, has been like no other. Purcell shared the challenges, the lessons and the future as this school year nears its end. 

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"Everything I’ve known about teaching the last 20 years had to be flipped upside down," Purcell said. 

This includes learning the technology to go remote, then maneuvering the difficulty of establishing a relationship with a new student through a computer screen, then getting in the vaccination line and redefining what learning in a classroom again would look like. It’s been a lot for one person to handle.

"I do think that teachers felt early on and throughout like they didn’t really have a voice," Purcell said. "We just did the work and other people made decisions for us."

 That was and is the reality for many teachers still. Purcell feels lucky, however, to be at a school where she says her principal and students' parents heard and supported them this past year. In fact, now that they are nearing the other side, their community has never been closer. 

"Students are so wonderfully honest," Purcell said. "They would say, 'my dad does not like the way you teach math…he says it doesn’t make any sense,'"

Despite the hiccups of parents trying to help their kids learn from home, teachers have maintained the same priority they've always had. 

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"The number one for all of us always, not just this year, is safety. This year we talked about the health component more than ever, but we have always worried about their social and emotional health as well," Purcell said. "So this whole year I’ve said again and again to my students that my job is to keep you safe above anything and to know that this is a safe place."

Thank you to all our incredible teachers who persevered through the challenges of this last year! WCNC Charlotte is grateful for you! 

RELATED: NC education leaders to outline plan to help students struggling to read

If you want to give your favorite teacher a shoutout, text in a picture, the school and what makes them so special to (704)329-3600.

Credit: WCNC Charlotte

Contact Rachel Lundberg at rlundberg@wcnc.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.