Almost 50% vaccinated, Abilene teachers talk challenges of pandemic, hope for brighter future

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Many Abilene teachers got their second doses of COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday at Mann Middle School, along with other members of the community.

Abilene ISD has hosted two clinics so far, vaccinating about half of its employees.

That number does not include those who have gotten their shots from the county.

For some teachers, they say its a step toward getting back to normal after a long year in the classroom.

This time last year, Abilene ISD was gearing up to take school online.

“I think ‘uncertain’ is probably the best word to describe that,” said Cooper High School teacher Rylee Wilkerson. “We didn’t know what the year was going to look like, we went to this meeting a couple days after. We came in and they said, ‘Make curriculum,’ and we said, ‘For how long?’ and they just said, ‘Yes.'”

From the high school level to the youngest students in the classroom, teachers were challenged to create a new normal.

“With anything that’s never happened before, you just try and get through, and that’s what we did,” said Bowie Elementary School Teacher Hailee Sapp.

Both Wilkerson and Sapp say the biggest hurdle was keeping students engaged without actually being with them.

“Especially when you’re trying to make sure they’re succeeding and are feeling OK and that they’re mentally good, being able to communicate with them is key,” said Wilkerson.

Wilkerson implemented virtual office hours to connect with her students beyond the screen.

“Return to normalcy is definitely what I think a lot of us want. What normal looks like after this, I don’t think any of us will know,” said Wilkerson.

In the past weeks, there has been a light at the end of the tunnel, as teachers and other community members now have the opportunity to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

“We can make sure we’re protecting ourselves by making sure we are protecting our students,” said Wilkerson.

The idea of getting back to a “normal school day” is still unknown, but teachers say what they want most is to see their students all together again.

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