I didn’t look forward to much relating to school during my junior year spent online. There isn’t much excitement about sitting in front of a screen for seven hours of zoom meetings, day after day, with little peer interaction for nine months.
But I did always look forward to seeing Mrs. Brittany Williams in her Algebra II Zoom class – and what made the biggest difference was that I always felt she genuinely cared about seeing me in class, too.
Mrs. Brittany Williams has this incredible way of connecting with her students that nothing – not even the separation of a pixelated, poorly lit video image – can diminish. All year long, she made it a point to let us know she cared about how we were doing. Sometimes it was a check-in where we all had to rate how our day was going. There might be a question to answer with each attendance form about our favorite food or tv show, or time taken out of class to hear about our day. We would often commiserate with her as a class about the downsides of virtual learning. She helped us look for and find the good in our lives when so many of us were struggling under the weight of social isolation, and banded together with us in both the good and bad of the year. Even if you were in a room entirely by yourself, you didn’t feel alone with Mrs. Williams behind your laptop screen.
Going into my virtual year, I was very nervous for Algebra II in particular. I have a learning disability in math, and I really struggled in Algebra I. I knew that I would manage to make it through, but the idea of having the class entirely online was daunting. I never would have guessed that it would be one of the best parts of my year. Not only did she go above and beyond in encouraging me and giving me the support I needed, she never made any student feel bad for the academic struggles or deficiencies they might have. While I remember there being several days where she had conversations about the class needing to ask questions and stay caught up on the homework, there was also a day where she sat us down and told us not to worry about our grades. She reminded us that the situation we were in was really hard, and that we were all going through unique struggles due to the pandemic. She told us that a missed assignment or a bad test grade wasn’t the end of the world, and that it was normal and acceptable to struggle when the world is such a crazy place. And now, on the rare occasion I make it upstairs in the building, Mrs. Williams is always there — in person, now — to meet me with a smile and make my day a little brighter.
Being honest, virtual school was rough. There’s a reason most people never tried it before it was a necessity. And it wasn’t just that way for students – the teachers weren’t enjoying themselves much either. But even while some teachers didn’t, she gave us her all and put just as much effort into forming relationships with us and making sure we had a good classroom experience as she would in person — and in fact, I felt closer to her than I did to many teachers I’d had pre-pandemic.
I will always and forever be grateful for Mrs. Williams and the impact she had on my junior year. I won’t forget the times I stayed after class for a couple minutes to talk with her, or how much fun it was when she came back from a wedding in Arizona and when we finished asking questions about the assignment, spent the rest of the class telling us about her entire trip. I’ll never forget how real she was with us, how she did the impossible by making a Zoom class engaging and fun, and how she supported us and did whatever she could to help us learn in such a strange format. She gave us room to feel the frustration that comes with online school – even when that looked like spending time after getting through class material to vent our disappointment with how the year was going – while always helping us find the silver lining.
So thank you, Mrs. Williams – it means so much more than you know.