Along with many other industries, education has been turned upside-down lately. All of the challenges that teachers were already facing—differentiating students, choosing curricula, and managing classrooms, to name a few—have been transformed. No matter the grade, subject, or scope and sequence, teaching is fundamentally about human connection. Teachers must value their students’ aspirations, and students must trust that their teachers can guide them there. As the 2019–2020 school year wraps up after months of virtual learning, we’re forced to look at human connection in a fundamentally different way. With that change comes a flood of emotions. I saw them all on display throughout my interview with Andrea Barnes and a team that adores her.
Andrea is a teacher through and through. She has never missed a district professional development session, and in 2012, she was named Texas’ Secondary Educator of the Year. Now concluding her final year of teaching in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, in Houston, Texas, Andrea is currently instructing high school English intervention. She has devoted her nearly 30-year career to helping students learn, read, and grow. To honor Andrea’s decades of work and commitment, HMH Learning Moments podcast host Noelle Morris surprised her with a virtual roundtable chat. Andrea thought she was calling into a routine online meeting, only to discover that Noelle was on the call, as was I, along with three of her closest colleagues, to wish her farewell. Our goal was to capture parting words of wisdom from a retiring teacher.
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