Teaching physical education through a blended virtual and in person platform during a global pandemic, would stop a lot of teachers from making an impact. But for Brittne Guerry, recently named Berkeley County School District Teacher of the Year, it was quite the opposite.
Guerry, 35, was honored on April 27. She has taught physical education at Nexton elementary for the past two years and says she was not expecting to win something like this. Though the pandemic brought many immediate and long winded effects of this in her day-to-day work life, Guerry used the opportunity to get more creative.
Although things were a bit crazy at first, Guerry says it gave everyone a chance to learn new ways to teach and to unlearn the limitations that we put on ourselves.
“Granted, our equipment is limited and all of that but we just had to get creative and there's nothing wrong with being creative,” Guerry said.
Guerry has done just that. She often gets her students involved in activities like obstacle courses and ‘find-and-seek,’ where students on all platforms can run or skip or whatever the request may be, to find things. the items, like their favorite crayon, can be either in their homes or at school.
The pandemic has spurred a growing sense of focus on students' social and emotional wellbeing. For Guerry, this looks like starting her classes off by routinely letting her students know how amazing they are.
“Speaking life over them. Having them speak that life over themselves. Teaching them how to stretch. Allowing them to count out those stretches, asking them questions as to why we are doing the things we are doing,” Guerry said.
Students just want to talk more, Guerry says, they want that connection with their teacher.
“Getting excited over those little things that they tell you. We want them to know that we care about that lost tooth, or that someone is sick in their home. We care that they have a doctor's appointment today. It's just making a big deal about that,” Guerry said.
Growing up playing sports, Guerry says it was a natural appeal to her to coach others in some fashion after graduating from high school. Although she pursued this by originally starting her teaching career in a private school for a few years, everything changed, Guerry says, after she took a break to work within a ministry.
“I realized the best way that I could help several of our underserved populations was honestly to go back into teaching so that I could be with them full-time because they are at school eight hours a day. And so it became a calling and that's when I really felt passionate about teaching,” Guerry said.
Now, ten years later, Guerry is honored for her hard work and inspiration to others in the field. Still, Guerry says the credit goes to her teammates that build her up. Guerry says she also credits God for making sense of all things in his own time and own way.
Despite being faced with more barriers to education in a single year then ever before, Guerry remains passionate about her work and mostly, the children.
“They have been placed in our care and we have to do everything possible in a small amount of time to make sure that they know that they are loved and cared for. It just goes back to having that faith. As teachers we have a purpose in this pandemic and we do have what it takes, and we are enough and our students are enough,” Guerry says.