South Florida students, parents, teachers adapt during COVID-19 pandemic

'We're making the best of the situation,' Martin County teacher Jamie Herd-Tesson says
Max Arno has done virtual and in-classroom learning at Morikami Park Elementary School in Delray Beach.jpg
Posted at 2:57 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 10:40:50-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Over the past year, students, parents, teachers, and all school staff members have faced challenges like never before because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between learning in-person and online, everyone has had to adapt to navigate this new phase of education.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: State of Education

"It's been quite a year. That's what I say about it," Palm Beach County mother Janine Arno said.

When the reality set in that Arno's son, Max, would start school virtually at Morakami Park Elementary School in Delray Beach, the Arno family had some new moves to figure out.

"It was a bit emotional, I'll be honest. I didn't think it would be, but you do have this idealistic thought of how the first day of kindergarten will go. He's my first child," Janine Arno said. "Learning to do a Zoom deposition while my son is learning to do Google Meet (for) kindergarten."

But Max Arno quickly saw the bright side of being at home.

"I was able to eat lunch with my mom," Max Arno said. "Because when you're in-person, you don't get to see your mom at lunchtime."

As well as the tough parts of online kindergarten.

"Angling the camera so my teacher could see me work," Max Arno said.

Then in mid-October, the Arno family decided it was time for Max to head to school in-person.

"I was excited, but a little scared," Max Arno said.

Janine Arno was, too, but said she's glad they made the switch.

Janine and Max Arno, transitioned from at-home to in-person learning
Janine Arno and her son, Max, recall how they transitioned from at-home to in-person learning over the past year.

"It was a very difficult decision," she said. "I think it's easier to learn, to raise his hand, to be able to get help from a teacher, to see his classmates do the same, to have the interaction. I just notice, mental-health wise, he's much happier to get out of the house everyday, but at the same time, in a very safe manner."

Up the road in Martin County, high school teacher Jamie Herd-Tesson had to redesign her classroom for the COVID-19 atmosphere.

"In the past, my desks would have been put together in little clumps. Four together," Herd-Tesson said. "It's different, but we're rolling with the punches as we see them. We're making the best of the situation."

Herd-Tesson has learned new ways of teaching both in-person and online students at the same time.

Jamie Herd-Tesson, teacher at Martin County High School
Jamie Herd-Tesson, a teacher at Martin County High School, says she's "grown more this last year as a teacher than I have in the 17 years prior."

"I feel that I've grown more this last year as a teacher than I have in the 17 years prior," Herd-Tesson said. "And not because I'm changing what I'm instructing, but I'm doing it differently to reach more students."

The Martin County High School educator is trying to embrace the challenges while balancing her own personal health.

"My husband did buy me, built me, the Plexiglas barrier I have here, because I am high-risk," Herd-Tesson said.

So while it may not be what anyone expected, Max Arno and his mom have things pretty well figured out.

"I think these kids will learn to be more resilient and to face obstacles in a healthy way that come across in life," Janine Arno said.