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Teachers staying strong and staying together through COVID-19

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(WREX) — For years, 13 News has honored educators in the stateline area with our Teacher of the Week award.

However, the series, along with in class teaching, was put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

For the last two months, students and teachers have communicated virtually, working through e-learning resources rather than the traditional classroom setting.

The learning curve has been large for many teachers as they adjust to bring class into session everyday from their own homes.

"Everything has been turned upside down. My dining room has turned into my desk," East High School teacher John Zuba said.

"I think our world has changed forever and specifically education has changed forever."

The change of scenery isn't the biggest change for teachers to get used to.

Many of them say it's being able to make a direct connection to kids is what they miss most.

It hits especially hard for Sylvia Landreth who is retiring at the end of the school year.

The Fairview Early Childhood Center teacher now talks to her kids through Google Hangout after leaving for spring break and not coming back due to coronavirus.

"I didn't have a face to face goodbye so this is a very special time for me and my students," Landreth said.

The situation is an emotional one for teachers who may not see some, or in some cases all, of their students ever again.

There is a level of clarity that has come from the pandemic.

As Zuba said, the landscape of education and our world as a whole has been altered permanently.

However what hasn't changed, in fact been reinforced, is the passion our teachers have.

Andrew Nelson, a teacher at David L. Rahn middle school in Mt. Morris, says this is the time to keep in mind why they chose education in the first place.

To help kids.

"While the methods that we were normally accustomed to helping kids have vastly vastly changed, you're still serving those kids who need you," Nelson said.

This mindset has helped teachers not just stay strong, but stay together.

Capron Elementary School's Serena Brettscneider says a solid bond has been built between educators to support each other for as long as the pandemic continues.

"I feel like it's brought us together in a way in a sense of if we weren't already supporting each other, we have to now," Brettscheider said.

"There's no way we could've gotten this far without supporting each other and helping each other."

We featured 26 educators in our Teacher of the Week series this school year.

Below is a list of their names and where they teach.

At the bottom of the list is a slideshow of some of our winners in their "home offices" as they continue to work with kids day in and day out.

Jason Mondello-Winnebago High School, Winnebago

Erin Fjelland-Seth Whitman Elementary School, Belvidere

Amber Dimond- Constance Lane Elementary School, Rockford

Michael Kusek- Stillman Valley High School, Stillman Valley

Liliana Weissbuch-Hillman Elementary School, Rockford

Terese Madden- Pecatonica High School, Pecatonica

Patti Luevano-Stephen Mack Middle School, Rockton

Heather Nelson-Washington Academy, Belvidere

Nick Muench-Immanuel Lutheran School, Freeport

Kayla Hedlund- Simon Elementary School, Winnebago

Amy Durso- Brookview Elementary School, Rockford

Brenna Hickcox-Belvidere Central Middle School, Belvidere

Jodi Graber-Donald Parker Center, Machesney Park

Leslie Granneman-Auburn High School, Rockford

Sylvia Landreth- Fairview Early Childhood Center, Rockford

Mike Huenefeld-Carl Sandburg Middle School, Freeport

John Zuba-East High School, Rockford

Suzette Muck-Poplar Grove Elementary School, Poplar Grove

Traci Rankins- Harlem High School, Machesney Park

Andrew Nelson- David L Rahn Middle School, Mt. Morris

Kristine Mollway- Machesney Elementary School, Machesney Park

Serena Brettschneider- Capron Elementary School, Capron

Tabitha Smith-Loves Park Elementary School, Loves Park

Stacy Ross-Durand School District, Durand

Tammy Greene-Kings Elementary School, Kings

Toni Altamore-Spring Creek Elementary School, Rockford

Author Profile Photo

Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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