• September 19, 2020

Teachers powering through pandemic - Odessa American: ECISD

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Teachers powering through pandemic

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Posted: Tuesday, September 15, 2020 3:15 pm

Even with decades of teaching experience, Odessa High School biology instructor Karen Wilson and her daughter, chemistry teacher Brittany Rainey, are facing challenges this year juggling virtual and in-person students.

Students also have a lot on their minds with school, work, job loss and the pandemic.

Wilson has been in Odessa since 1988. She taught in Sierra Blanca and Marble Falls. When they moved to Odessa, Wilson worked for an oil company for 10 years. She was due to be transferred to Houston, but decided she didn’t want to go.

“I decided to stay in Odessa and I decided to teach again because I always liked it. I loved the kids. The kids make teaching what it is,” Wilson said.

Although she doesn’t physically see many of her students these days, Wilson said she still has contact with them.

“When the bell rings, I have to have a Google Meet with them, so we sit down and we try to establish that contact. When COVID-19 came on in the spring, the teachers knew their students.

“... We knew a lot of what they struggled with and we knew a lot of what their strengths and weaknesses were, so to pick up and do virtual was for some classes easier than others because you knew what the students were capable of,” Wilson said.

“Right right, now we know the students that are in our class. We have a list and we’ve established some contact through the gmail, but we don’t know our kids. We don’t know their strengths and weaknesses because we don’t know what they’re capable of.”

ECISD Chief Innovation Officer Jason Osborne said Wilson is a champion teacher who is always willing to go the extra mile for her school.

“Watching her engage with her class is not only inspiring it makes me want to be one of her students. Every conversation we have together leads to ideas on how we can better serve ECISD. Karen is the epitome of a team player and an asset to our district,” Osborne said in a text message.

Wilson teaches about 150 students in the International Baccalaureate diploma program.

She teaches Bio 2 Advanced Placement, dual credit with Odessa College, junior and senior year IB and a section of honors biology.

Being in the science building, Wilson said the teachers work together to help their students achieve success in subjects like biology and chemistry.

Although some have said teachers took the spring and summer off, Wilson and Rainey say that’s not so. Both prepared all summer for an expected virtual fall semester and they did it on their own time.

Rainey said she used to take a conference period, but now she doesn’t. She added that students message them at 2 and 3 a.m.

“There’s no stopping point,” Wilson said. “You could literally work 24 hours a day.”

Last year, Wilson said one of the assignments she gave to students was comparing and contrasting the Spanish Flu (1918-1920) with COVID.

“They had a couple of options of what they could do as an assignment and one of the options was to just sit down and tell me how COVID impacted (them) and those were tear jerkers. I was in tears,” Wilson said.

She had one student who was accepted to Texas Tech University, but the student’s parents lost their jobs.

She had another student who had both parents lose their jobs and every morning they would get in a truck with a water tank hooked behind it and wash vehicles.

“I’ve had some that were the baby sitter because their parents could no longer afford day care,” Wilson said.

Raney had a student who had hours added to their shift and was working more now than ever.

“So our kids have a lot of challenges,” Wilson said.

Odessa, TX

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