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Teachers say flexibility, creativity key to school during a pandemic

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Sun Prairie 4th grade students learn virtually on first day

MADISON (WKOW) -- The school year has been one of stops and starts for teachers, students and their families. As some schools are returning to in-person classes, others are having to temporarily switch to virtual instruction because of COVID-19.

For teachers, this uncertainty means they're having to prepare for almost any possible situation.

"We have to think 'Can these projects work in class and can they work if I have to go virtual tomorrow?'," Brian Zwick said. Zwick teaches general music and choir classes for the Iowa-Grant School District.

In the Albany School District, music teacher Britni Cohen-Wichner has to have lesson plans that work for both formats simultaneously.

"I'm having to try to teach to a computer screen and to in-person students at the same time," she said Wednesday.

Her district is holding in-person classes for Kindergarten through 8th grade, but students have the option to opt-in to virtual learning. All high school classes are virtual.

Cohen-Wichner said this required big changes to her choir class.

"I've had students have their microphones off," she said. "So instead of us singing all as one big group, it's basically just them singing with me. I'm the only one who has my microphone on."

Zwick has also made changes to his choir classes. Because COVID-19 spreads through the air, he said practicing indoors isn't an option this year, so his class sings outside.

One day, they found an unusual audience: cows in a neighboring field.

"It was kind of weird and kind of fun," Zwick said. "I just looked across the street and saw cows and thought, 'I think we're ready to try this piece that we've been working on.'"

Zwick and Cohen-Wichner both said they've been encouraged by the level of creativity they've seen from their colleagues during these unusual times.

"Teachers go above and beyond every single year," Cohen-Wichner said. "This year even more, every single teacher is stepping up and putting in countless hours of prep time, communicating with families, communicating with students, trying to do whatever possible to make sure that students can still learn in a safe environment, whether that's at home or in-person."

Both teachers said while nothing will replace the face-to-face interaction that was possible before the pandemic, they recognize students, teachers and parents are all trying their best to make the most of these unusual circumstances.

Cohen-Wichner is the wife of a 27 News employee.

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Caroline Dade

Weekend Evening Anchor/Reporter, 27 News

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