Sahira Kodra, BSEd ’20, Elementary Education
Akin Elementary, Leander ISD
Inference SLO Team Leader
This past year of teaching was completely different than I thought it would be — of course. When our senior year ended abruptly in March of 2020, I was disappointed to not be able to finish my student internship. Luckily the Baylor program prepares you far in advance of just your senior year.
I had also already taken all of my TExES assessments and completed state requirements, so I was ready to be officially certified as soon as I was a graduate. I knew many people from other universities who were not as fortunate because of the way their program was structured.
All my Baylor classes and time in the classroom prepared me for teaching, but I think nothing prepared me for teaching virtually all of my first year. Baylor also instilled a love of learning in me that I was able to pass down to my students. Never in my class did I focus on rote memorization, focusing instead on hands-on learning (in their own homes) and exploration.
I started the year with 27 virtual students, and within the first couple weeks I had two students leave for self-paced virtual programs. Our entire grade level was virtual for the first nine weeks in fall of 2020. At the end of the first nine weeks, I had a couple of students move into in-person classrooms.
Throughout the year I had students who were previously in-person move to virtual, whether it was because of needing to quarantine or they simply wanted to switch to being at home. At the end of the year, I had a total of 22 students, but not all of them were the ones I originally started with. I came to the school campus every day and still did lunch/recess/after-school duty around the in-person students.
My most helpful tip for virtual learning is to utilize breakout rooms! Breakout rooms saved my life. Initially we were not allowed to send our kids into breakout rooms, but after a few weeks, our district gave us permission. The students loved having time to share with their friends in the class, and it allowed me to work with the students who needed more help. Our school followed the district protocols, all of which were fairly common practice around the state of Texas.
My team — both virtual and in-person — was fantastic. We were a team of eight — larger than I had previously been a part of. Five of the teachers were in-person and three of us were virtual. They were awesome about rallying around each other to make the best lessons we could, both in-person and virtual. I also loved my mentor teacher; Leander ISD pairs you with a mentor teacher if you are new to the profession. She was welcoming, and we became fast friends, I even stayed at her house during the snow weeks.
My favorite memory was when my students and I participated in an escape room I had created — thanks to Dr. Neil Shanks. We had done an in-person escape room in his methods class, I reached out and asked him a few questions. I then created a math escape room that allowed my students to go through it in teams while being virtual. They were all thrilled and made it a competition to see who could finish it first. They all popped in and out of breakout rooms to solve each puzzle.
That is another thing that I love about Baylor — I always feel like I can reach out to previous professors for questions and support. Another favorite memory and something I was easily able to do virtually was our ABC spirit days, as a countdown to the end of the year, each day had a theme. My least favorite memory was having to press ‘end call’ on the last day of school instead of getting to hug every student goodbye for the summer.
I did not return for the spring commencement. Since our Baylor graduation day was a Thursday, I would have had to miss school for it. Since I was a virtual teacher, anytime I needed to miss, they would pull an in-person teacher to teach my class and place a substitute into their in-person classroom. This would interrupt two classrooms, which was unfortunate for everyone involved. I also felt that in the past year, I had said goodbye to Baylor in my own way with a mini graduation with friends and family. I even returned in the summer of 2020 to take pictures with friends in our gowns.
I loved my time at Baylor and think it thoroughly prepared me to find a job, interview, and excel in that job. I am so proud of my education and always refer people who want a career in education to Baylor. I hope to return for a master’s degree in later years but really wanted to get into the classroom as soon as possible. I would not trade my four years at Baylor for anything, and I can’t wait to see how the School of Education grows and flourishes in the coming years.