‘Teacher of the Week’ makes kindergarten fun despite new COVID-19 rules

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The pandemic disrupted schools nearly a year ago, and its been a challenging time for students especially younger kids who have had to do remote learning or socially distance themselves while at school with classmates.

Candace Hart is a kindergarten teacher at Parsley Elementary School in Wilmington.

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We picked her as our ‘Teacher of the Week’ after receiving a nomination from a parent who commended Hart for being a patient and an amazing teacher while simultaneously making learning fun for students despite new rules in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“When you think about your memories of kindergarten or your kids’ memories or other students’ memories of kindergarten, this is not what you think of,” said Hart.

Some of the new rules include frequent handwashing, standing on strategically-placed dots on the floor and sitting at desks that are placed far apart.

“We are lucky with our tiles, they are seven feet apart, so it’s a nice visual for them, having their own space,” Hart said.

A 2003 graduate of UNCW, Hart has taught 18 years and this is her ninth year at Parsley.

One of the difficult challenges for elementary teachers is teaching beginning learners how to position their mouths to pronounce new words while wearing a face covering.

“They can’t see my face, I’m teaching them letter sounds,” she said. “I mean, how do you form a mouth through a mask? We do a lot of arm motions and anything to get them moving to re-engage and re-focus.”

Dr. Robin Hamilton is the principal of the school and she says we couldn’t have picked a better ‘Teacher of the Week.’

“She [Hart] has the highest levels of active engagement of any teacher and she maximizes every single minute with her children,” Hamilton said. “They’re always having integrated learning and always moving and having movement that helps them be able to stay engaged and to stay focused while learning.”

Despite challenges caused by the pandemic, Hart says there’s nothing she’d rather be doing.

“This is what I was born to do,” she said.

While half of her students attend class in-person, and the rest join in remotely from home, Hart tries to make both groups feel connected.

With the school year winding down, Hart knows she’s only got about three more months to teach these boys and girls what they need to know.

“Regardless of whether we’re back in school, time is still moving and kindergarten will come to an end and they have to be ready for first grade,” Hart said. “Whether we’re learning from home or here, we have to be ready for the next step and that’s our job to keep our standards high.”

If you know a teacher making a big impact on students, we want to know about them. Click here to submit a nomination. Each week’s winner receives a $100 gift card thanks to our sponsoring partner, Down East Heating & Air Conditioning.