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Pinellas County educators discuss teaching during pandemic

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Two Pinellas County educators discussed their concerns of teaching during a pandemic.

U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist hosted a virtual meeting with teachers and parents in Pinellas County.

Congressman Crist said he wanted to learn more about the needs of educators so the federal government can help them adapt to their changing environment.

Janet Cunningham, a teacher at Calvin Hunsinger School, participated in Wednesday’s meeting. She teaches students with special needs.

She shared what it’s like teaching online and face-to-face at the same time.

“I am doing both the in-person and the online learning at one time, simultaneously in 5 out of 6 of my classes,” said Cunningham. “With the hybrid simultaneously model, they’re giving everything they have, but you can only spend 50% of your time with either group.”

Cunningham wears a mask, a face shield and a microphone.

“I’m masked up, shielded up, microphoned up. I feel like I’m coming in from another planet teaching my students,” she said.

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She would like to see the majority of teachers focus on virtual teaching or face-to-face instruction. She said doing both divides her attention to her students.

“We need to have the classrooms 100% virtual or 100% face-to-face, right now so we can provide what Pinellas County Schools has been able to provide for the students in the past which is a rigorous, quality instruction,” said Cunningham.

Brighitte Whipple made the decision to teach virtually because of family health concerns. She teaches first grade.

“They’re so sweet. They want to please. They want to see their friends and they’re just happy to be together in whatever setting they can be in,” said Whipple. “I’m lucky enough to teach from home so I’m very happy about that.”

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Whipple said she still feels connected to the children she teaches.

“I feel just as connected to the kids and I feel they’re just as connected to me almost as good as if we’re in person,” she said.

Both teachers said they are dedicated to teaching and everyone is making adjustments during the pandemic.

“We all want to teach, that’s why we’re in the profession,” said Cunningham.

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