ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Teaching through a pandemic has been anything but easy for local educators, but one Rochester City School teacher is definitely making it more interesting for her students.
Kelly LaLonde teaches English as a Second Language at the World of Inquiry School No. 58. But back in September, she started teaching from the back of her car.
“We had to social distance as many classrooms as we could so the classroom that normally is my office or the ESL room, already had 2-3 teachers sharing it,” LaLonde said. “Because I teach middle and high school, my schedule is a little weird and I would have to kind of camp in a place where kids would be still going to school, and I would have to eat my lunch in a room with kids who are unmasked and I have a small child home, who at the time wasn’t vaccinated, so I started thinking what can I do?”
She decided to turn her car into a “Teacher Van” for her to teach out of. She added blankets, books, pillows and even lights in the back to make it more interesting for her students.
“My kids think it’s hysterical, like they always want to see the lights on or what new thing is in the car,” LaLonde said. “They’re really funny about it. Actually, most of them know teachers are doing their best and camping in weird places for most of the year because of social distancing.”
While she wishes she could teach from her home, LaLonde said the district wanted teachers to be at school, even if students were remote.
“Most of us spent a lot of money, our own money, and a lot of time setting up our remote offices, right? So at my house, I have two full screens and my computer, plus I have reliable internet. The school’s internet… if it’s over taxed, crashes, right?,” LaLonde said.
But being at school meant having to find space to social distance, which wasn’t always easy.
“Now that we’ve gone remote and we are required to come into the building, it’s really hard to find a space, even though I’ve been offered. I want to make that super clear, it’s my choice to be in the car,” she said.
“It was really nice to come out here with my colleagues. There’s a lot of us that double up on rooms, who might be immunocompromised, so we were finding places to go.”
LaLonde said it was hard with more than one teacher in a room on zoom because they could get a lot of feedback. Or if teachers were teaching different classes in the same room, you’d hear each other talking in the background.
She adds that moving to the car also worked because it allowed her students to see her face.
“My kids are ESL kids, who need to see my face and not have a mask on, and not be muffled by the mask, so my laptop gets WiFi and so I have been zooming from the car,” LaLonde said.
While the situation is not ideal, LaLonde said she has learned she needs to lean into the craziness and have a little fun because teaching can be really hard mentally. She says it also helps that she’s been able to get to know her students for a few months before moving fully to her van.
“Which is why I think kind of this whole setup works. And they think it’s funny, because that’s the big part about teaching, right? They don’t care what you teach them, it’s how you make them feel,” she said.
LaLonde says she knows of quite a few other teachers who are also teaching out of their cars or in unique areas. Currently, World of Inquiry School No. 58 is one of 22 RCSD schools currently remote due to staffing shortages.