RANGELY – The 2021 academic year has been filled with many challenges for both educators and learners because of the pandemic. For many, this has meant rotating hybrid schedules, a variety of distance learning obstacles and adapting to new technologies. For those teaching strictly in the classroom environment, this means mask-wearing and following social distancing guidelines.
Winner of the 2021 Franklin County Teacher of the Year award Michelle Laliberte, pre-k teacher at Rangeley Lakes Regional School, reflects on the challenges and rewards of adapting the classroom environment for CDC guidelines.
A brand new pre-k program was disrupted and postponed until next year in order to give school-aged students as much time in the classroom as possible to help meet the needs of working-class families.
“It was a big burden on them and we wanted that structure back for students,” Laliberte said, whose role in the beginning of the year was remote teaching before turning her classroom into a multi-grade classroom for kindergarteners and first-graders.
Though remote learning engagement was difficult and provided technological challenges, the in-person model has been successful because students are at the age where they still enjoy coming to school and seeing friends. It was that motivation that made following the guidelines “not that big of a challenge,” according to Laliberte.
“I have been completely surprised by how amazing the students have done,” she said.
Laliberte expressed her pride in how well her teaching team has worked together to continue to put the needs and wellbeing of their students first.
“This year was the hardest year in my teaching career…but I work with an amazing group of teachers,” she said. “Their worlds have been changed and I just want them to be happy to be here.”
As guidelines are slowly lifted, Laliberte said she sees potential for a brighter future; the concept of outdoor classrooms is intriguing. Laliberte also recognizes how beneficial the expansion of school meal programs are because of the pandemic and hopes this is something that will continue.
When asked about winning Franklin County’s teacher of the Year award, Laliberte stated that she feels blessed and is proud of the work she and her colleagues have accomplished.
“This year wouldn’t have been possible without the team I have. It’s not just me; I’m representing them and their hard work.”