“I’m originally from PG County, but I’ve been here about 24 years. I grew up playing softball and I played down here, so I knew a lot of people in the county. As I went through college, I knew that I wanted to teach down here. I fought actually to do my student teaching in Calvert, and I was the first student teacher from the University of Maryland to student teach in this county. I started at Beach Elementary and this is my 23rd year of teaching in Calvert. My degree is in early childhood and I really love working with the little ones.
I love watching the spark in their eyes when they start to put sounds together to make words that are super cool to me. I knew that I wanted to be an early childhood teacher because I believe in that strong foundation of education. In addition to that degree, I have a Master’s in curriculum and instruction, but still focusing on the early childhood years. I’ve taught from kindergarten through fourth grade, with the exception that I’ve never taught first grade. I enjoy all of them, but I love teaching kindergarten because right around January, you see that, “Oh, I get it! I can read! I can understand this!” And to me, that’s really interesting to watch how the brain works at that age. This is actually my first year teaching second grade in 16 years, and I love it.
Even during the pandemic, it’s been a good year, and I have been really lucky to have some really supportive families. This year has been hard and challenging though too. I’ve always said that I love technology, but I really don’t think I knew what I was saying. I think the most, challenging part of using technology is that you have so many different kinds of families and situations when kids are working remotely. In a regular school setting, those can be a little bit controlled. I can assist my kids that don’t maybe don’t have, um, um, as much support, you know, as other kids and I can assist them more in class. You don’t know if it’s a faulty internet or a broken computer or if the child just doesn’t want to do it. And unlike at school, I can’t just encourage them 1:1 and tell them “we can do this “ or maximize incentives and say, “let’s go have extra recess after you finish”. Those things are really hard.
My heart went out to a lot of these families because they’re not teachers and some are not tech-savvy, and we shouldn’t expect them to be. I felt for every different situation I’ve encountered. And I think it helped me grow as a teacher though, because, you know, you always have your, your preconceived notions about how you think the year is going to go. And this year I went in, of course, teaching a new grade, but not knowing what was going to happen. I had more empathy towards everybody’s situation. A parent would email and say, “My child didn’t do their work” and I would reply back that I was happy to meet with them, help them, whatever they needed. But I don’t think I was special in that way, I think all of us did that.
We’re all on Facebook though, and sometimes you do read posts from parents bashing us. That would probably be the biggest obstacle for me this year was seeing parents talk so badly about us. I had to completely delete some of the Facebook groups because it was really hard emotionally to read what some of the parents were saying about us. It really wears on you when you hear a lot of negative things, and it was even harder because the plans that we were getting were also constantly changing and we were really just trying to do our best. I was lucky though because I did have an amazing support system. There were plenty of times I couldn’t figure something out with the technology, and I would feel the tears in my eyes and my husband would just say to me, “You got this! It’s going to be okay.” And then my kids are like, “Yeah, mom, you got this! So, I truly believe that if it wasn’t for my support system-my husband, kids, and my team at school, it could’ve been a very different world for me. I couldn’t be the person that I am, and the teacher that I am, without the people around me.
Even with these challenges, there have been some positives too. I’ve gotten to know my families better, for example. We got to do things like bring your pet to school day when we were virtual. I had one girl that was excited because her kitchen was being renovated and she was like, “Ms. Hopkins, can I show you after class?” And so she took her computer and showed me her whole kitchen. Stuff like that which we don’t get to see on a normal school day. So I definitely was closer to the families and the kids because of this experience.
There’s a lot I love about my job. I love the kids. I love when they have been struggling so hard to understand something, and one day you see it in their eyes that they got it. To see the kid’s growth-I think that’s the most inspiring and motivating part of being a teacher.”