Getting Back to the Classroom - Inspiration from Elementary Teacher, Cortney Bonner
We are excited to announce a new blog series titled “Clean Republic Revolutionaries” where we will feature remarkable individuals who believe in a toxin free life. We bring you these blogs to inspire you and to show you what it means to be part of our revolution. These people provide us with wonderful examples of how to be resilient, innovative and forward-thinking - especially during this pandemic. Here you will find tips and tricks of different industries, plus information on how a cleaning product with just three simple ingredients (salt, water, and electricity) can have a big impact.
In this blog, we are pleased to introduce Cortney Bonner, an Elementary Art teacher from Dallas, TX. She has been teaching for eight years and was able to give us some wonderful insight on what it’s like being a teacher while also being a parent during COVID-19.
CR: What led you to become a teacher? Can you tell us about your experience?
CB: I worked for Head Start as a Family Services Specialist for three years after college. Head Start is a national program that provides early childhood education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and families. I loved working in a school setting and connecting children and their families with services that would fulfill a need in their lives! That job led me to become a teacher :)
CR: What's your favorite part about teaching?
CB: The KIDS!
CR: Tell us about your experience with online learning this year - specifically, teaching from home while having your kids at home, also attending school.
CB: It was an adventure! Looking back, we had such little information about the virus. Teachers literally learned how to teach virtually overnight. It took a lot of trial-and-error, creativity, flexibility and patience. Teachers rose to the occasion, as they always do. Somehow my kids and I survived teaching and learning from home without many major hiccups! Their worlds were turned upside down, so we did our best to keep things as "normal" as possible by making sure they kept up with their schoolwork, while also making sure they got to be kids by playing outside and moving their bodies.
CR: Can you tell us about the fun art challenges you created for your students during the pandemic?
CB: There were so many! We really had to get creative because we have students with supplies at their fingertips at home, and others with none at all. I had them make self-portraits using objects found around the house. They also created Positivity Posters to display for essential workers. I challenged them to build the tallest tower they could with objects of their choice. I try to tie every lesson in with a children's book or with the work of a professional artist (for reference).
CR: Do you have any tips or resources you found helpful for other teachers looking for creative ways to create curriculum during covid?
CB: There is such a great community of educators on social media who often share ideas on what has or hasn't worked for them during virtual learning. We all lean on and learn from each other's ideas. In the spring, my team created a google website for special area subjects (art, P.E. and music). We communicated with our students on Google Classroom and SeeSaw. Amazing apps like FlipGrid allow us to create and share content and have the students do the same. Many teachers currently are creating virtual Bitmoji classrooms on google slides where students can access hyperlinks to content. My advice is to be flexible and learn from others. It's okay to try out different things until something works for you and your students.
CR: What were some of the challenges with navigating the remote learning situation with your own children?
CB: Technology issues are never fun. Slow wi-fi, keeping up with Zoom schedules, and unmotivated students were just a few of our challenges!
CR: How do you envision school in the future - post COVID?
CB: It is heart-breaking to think about teaching art without sharing the awesome art supplies available. But for the foreseeable future, school will look like students and teachers in masks, social distancing, and no shared supplies. But I do know that teachers will be doing whatever it takes to make our students feel safe and to make school feel as joyful as possible, given the circumstances.
CR: Is there anything you wish Dallas would have done differently to protect its citizens/teachers/families, etc?
CB: Yes. I wish we had a mandatory mask ordinance from the beginning. I feel like all of this turmoil concerning whether schools should open could've been avoided.
CR: What are your fears regarding this upcoming school year as a teacher? As a parent sending your kids back to school?
CB: I have a ton of fears! I am fearful of contracting Covid. I have a small classroom with no windows. I am nervous about being exposed to more students than other teachers since I teach every student in the building. I am concerned about how to properly social distance, ventilate my classroom, and not share art materials in class. As children of parents who work outside the home, my boys have no choice but to return to school face-to-face when allowed. Our family does not have the luxury of choosing to continue virtual learning.
CR: What are your hopes for the upcoming school year as a teacher? As a parent?
CB: My hopes are that the mask ordinance will be extended in Dallas county and that our cases will continue to go down because of it. I have the best job in the world. I cannot wait to be with my students safely in person! I miss them, my co-workers and our school culture. I hope things continue to improve enough to where my oldest son can experience his first year of junior high and all of the exciting firsts that come with it like switching classes, band and athletics.
CR: When it comes to navigating these difficult times, do you have any insights to share with parents?
CB: We are all in this together. Grace upon grace upon grace. We desperately want to be back in the classroom with our students, but want to make sure that it is as safe as possible to do so.
CR: How has Clean Republic benefitted your home and/or classroom?
CB: At home, I keep spray bottles of CR by my front door (for mail and packages), in the kitchen (for counters and groceries), and in the car (for everything else)! When I start working in my classroom again, I plan to keep one handy to quickly spray down my tables, supplies and doorknobs.
CR: What's the most important/interesting thing about Clean Republic, in your opinion?
CB: That it is natural and does not contain toxic, synthetic chemicals. I can use it anywhere and on anything without batting an eye! It's the perfect thing to use around kids.