“Some kids have an innate love of learning and enjoy coming to school,” says Jenna Buhr, a first grade teacher at Cedar River Academy at Taylor Elementary. “My passion for teaching stems from knowing there are other students who need a nurturing adult to help them discover their strengths and curiosities.”
Buhr has spent her seven-year career teaching at Cedar River Academy. However, this year, due to the pandemic and some health concerns, she requested to teach remotely. This decision was one she didn’t take lightly. “It was kind of torture going back-and-forth, not knowing if I was going to be approved to be remote. Or, even if I was approved, if that was the right choice,” explains Buhr.
Looking back now, Buhr believes it was the right decision for this school year. “Overall I am really glad this is what happened this year. I have learned a lot.” She is teaching 28 first grade remote learners from Arthur, Hoover, and Cedar River Academy.
Buhr admits the beginning of the school year was tough, but she credits introducing technology slowly, bit-by-bit, to her first-graders’ success. An ongoing challenge, actually, is managing printed materials, such as all being on the same page in a book—normally, Buhr would simply walk over and guide a student to the correct page. Even so, Buhr is impressed with her students’ adaptability. “They are just so flexible. I am amazed at how they have adapted to a different way of learning.”
Being a remote teacher does have its challenges. “I miss my co-workers; it can feel lonely in my little home classroom,” says Buhr. She adds, though, that the opportunity to work with other remote teachers in a professional learning community, and working with staff from different schools in the district is helping her grow as a teacher and pushing her outside of her comfort zone.
Remote teaching has had some unexpected benefits. “It’s kind of funny, I’ve found [remote teaching] can be more efficient and effective than teaching in person,” says Buhr. She notices her students quickly grabbing a blanket if they’re cold, using the bathroom without needing a pass, and eating snacks if they’re hungry—“little things that normally eat up your instruction time,” she says. Buhr feels students can meet their needs quickly and focus more on learning in a remote environment.
Additionally, Buhr has noticed that her connections with families are actually stronger this year compared to previous school years. “I have a better understanding of what is going on, and what they are going through,” says Buhr. “I feel like the parents are almost more comfortable being able to reach out to me because many are seeing me on a screen every day.”
With all of the challenges of navigating this school year, Buhr’s love of teaching is still going strong.
“I love to be the person that students are excited to see every day,” says Buhr. “I love that I can make learning exciting for them.”