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East Texas teacher adapting to pandemic-related changes

Megan Harrison is a Spanish teacher at Longview ISD. She was expecting a "back-to-normal" school year, but district leaders had to implement extra safety measures.

LONGVIEW, Texas — This school year is just getting started and already teachers in East Texas are having to work through the constant changes the pandemic is causing.

Longview ISD Spanish teacher Megan Harrison is one of many educators adapting to the new normal. She was expecting a more normal start to the school year, but one week into class, the district implemented a mask mandate.

The district is being proactive to limit the spread of COVID-19 on its campuses. 

Inside Señora Harrison's classroom, there are no desks or papers. 

"I'm not collecting papers, I'm not touching everybody's stuff, I really have no touch with the kids at all, contact-wise," she said. "And when I speak, I'm six feet away from them. And so any contact they're going to have is going to be with each other."

It's a measure she decided to take before the school year began to limit the spread of germs. 

Unlike other Spanish courses, she focuses on speaking and learning new phrases and words. She feels learning to speak the language is more important than giving grades based on grammar.

"I don't do a whole lot of grammar, I want you to speak it," she said. "So I'm not going to sit here and make you fill in the blanks of sentences, because I want you to be able to talk to me."

One of the biggest challenges she has faced is being able to listen to her students when they wear masks.

"I am a little hard of hearing and I read lips," she said. "So to not be able to read their lips was very hard. I feel like I was constantly asking them to repeat themselves."

Despite the challenges, she said she's excited to have everyone together in a classroom again and she hopes the pandemic doesn't cause the district to go to virtual instruction.

"This is a super interactive class," she said. "Trying to replicate that on the computer was just really challenging."

Now that everyone is back together, she plans to challenge her students to take their language learning to the next level.

"I absolutely expect my kids to excel and I'm going to push them really hard this year," she said. "We are going to get to places that I don't think I've ever taught a class to."