California Educator

August/September 2021

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T A K E T H E M E M O R A B L E difficulty of an educator 's first year of teaching, add in an unprecedented pan- demic, and finish it off with a master 's program all at the same time, and you have an idea of what the past year has been like for educators Miyuki Manzanedo and Irene Amezcua. "I don't know how I did it," says Amezcua. "It was very stressful." Manzanedo taught a bilingual second grade class (80 percent in Spanish) in Davis Joint Unified School District while completing a joint credential and mas- ter 's program at UC Davis. She was hired in March 2020, the month school buildings statewide were closed to prevent spread of COVID-19, and started the school year in distance learning. "I was meeting these kids over a camera. I felt like I was being robbed of the experiences first-year teachers get to have," says Manzanedo, who taught virtually from her classroom because she shares a studio apartment with her husband, who was also a first-year teacher. "I didn't know anyone at the school. Even staff meeting Zooms had black boxes!" Her initial frustration turned into an opportunity for her, having completed her credential in distance learning and being familiar with current instructional technology. This made Manzanedo popular with some of her more seasoned educator colleagues, who sought her out for tech tips and assistance. "At my site, I felt like a valued, experienced member, not a new, inexperienced teacher," says Manzanedo, a member of Davis Teach- ers Association. "In many ways, my colleagues were also first-year teachers again." A First Year Like No Other Miyuki Manzanedo at the end of her first week teaching. Amezcua spent her first year teaching as a mild/moderate resource specialist in San Pasqual Union School District, with a caseload of 25 students. While the school year started in distance learning, Amezcua began seeing students in person around Labor Day a couple of times every week when special education cohorts returned to campus. Steadily, more and more students began coming back to campus for longer periods of time, until all students were on campus for full days after spring break. The workload was strenuous, with the added stress of statewide assessments and IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) on the job and studying and assignments for her master 's program at CSU San Marcos after hours. Unlike Manzanedo, Amezcua didn't feel sup- ported by her colleagues, which she says was a tough place as she tried to survive the year. "I was really lucky my students were amazing," says Amezcua, explaining that the resilience of students with special needs was especially inspiring. "I learned to believe in my students a lot more and what they 're capable of doing. A lot of them grew up this year and they really didn't have a choice." Erin Githens was hitting her stride in her first year of teaching in March 2020 when the pandemic closed schools statewide. She says the sudden move to distance learning shifted her focus to the social-emotional health of her stu- dents and how she could best support their unique needs when distance learning resumed in the fall. "It was an asset that I had only taught a year, because I wasn't attached to the way anything was done before," says Githens, a member of United Teachers Los Angeles. Learning to be empathetic to her students was a big lesson Manzanedo learned from her master 's "At my site, I felt like a valued, experienced member, not a new, inexperienced teacher." —MIYUKI MANZANEDO, Davis Teachers Association 46 Teaching & Learning Irene Amezcua Erin Githens

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