2020 has been a rough year for many students, as the coronavirus pandemic has created a large educational divide between the students in online format (Digital Learning) and the students who are attending in-person classes socially distanced at their schools. Many teachers are struggling with this new concept of teaching while looking at a Zoom screen as well as making sure their in-person students are getting equal learning experiences. In a time like this, it is clear which teachers are creating the most unique environments to overcome the barriers of mixed format learning.
North Gwinnett High School’s Mr. Kevin Blankenship (Mr. B) is an AP world history teacher who has always made a significant and positive impact on his students. He has been teaching at North Gwinnett for 14 years and is known for his day-brightening humor and entertaining personality in the classroom. Many students have stated on numerous occasions how much they look forward to his class and how often it has made their day better.
“My favorite part of being a teacher is just being around the kids. It keeps me young,” Mr. B said. “You always want to have fun in life and hearing their goals and dreams and their aspirations in life makes me feel like I am living my life over again.”
Mr. B said he enjoys teaching AP world history, “because I feel like through history I get to tell a story, the story of life, and to me, that is extremely valuable.”
Like many other teachers, Mr. B has been impacted by the new format of mixed learning, where a majority of his students are at home and attending class through Zoom.
“I miss the crowd and the energy I get from having a class of 35 kids to now having only three or four in the room at a time, he said. “You want every kid to experience the same energy and experience, so I try to be as much of my normal self as possible. I try to keep both environments the same so that my digital kids don’t feel like they are at a disadvantage for being at home.”
Many teachers right now are struggling with catching up with technology, often having connection issues and other problems while trying to provide their digital students with the same education as their in-person kids. Mr. B said he thinks every teacher, especially during these times, deserves to be Teacher of the Year.
“The people in Gwinnett, they really care about their kids,” he said. “I walk through the halls and I see 250 teachers finding new ways to teach their kids and I feel like they are all doing such a great job. I’m grateful for the award, it’s an honor and a privilege, but every teacher right now deserves to be Teacher of the Year all day and every day.”
When asked what the honor means to him, Mr. B delivered a humorous response that reminds many of his unique personality— “I hope that Teacher of the Year brings me extra French Fries at Chick-fil-A.”