Photography by Kathy Tran

Most educators welcome the day when their students return to campus for the start of another academic year. Last year, excitement was mixed with a hint of apprehension.

Schools reopened last fall in the shadow of the coronavirus. Instead of recruiting classmates at club fairs and cheering each other on at sporting events, students returned to temperature checks, plexiglass dividers and pre-packaged lunches.

“These kids love each other and hadn’t seen each other in six months,” says neighbor Tiffani Kocsis, assistant head of the Upper School at The Hockaday School. “Keeping them 6 feet apart is hard. Convincing them they should stay home and do nothing on the weekends is hard.”

Teaching can be a daunting profession under normal circumstances, even more so during a pandemic. Try navigating it as a new employee like Kocsis.

Kocsis started her job at Hockaday last fall after the family moved from Los Angeles when her husband was laid off because of the pandemic. They stayed in an Airbnb for two months before purchasing their house in Old Lake Highlands.

Her three children started school online at St. Thomas Aquinas. In the fall, they opted for in-person instruction on campus.

“On March 12, they never saw their friends again because we moved,” Kocsis says. “We didn’t get to say goodbye, and then we arrive in Dallas where they don’t know anyone and school is online. When we found out [St. Thomas] was going to open, we were so happy. They love their teachers and their friends. They have silly stories every day.”

The protocols at St. Thomas and Hockaday have helped mitigate the spread of the virus so the schools can stay open. As of Dec. 14, there was only 1 active case among students at Hockaday’s Upper School. Another 27 students and staff members were in quarantine.

Still, the job isn’t easy, and most educators feel like they’re working double: once at school and once at home.

“In education, we’re at work, and we’ve got new protocols, new platforms, new everything,” Kocsis says. “We’re trying to take care of students’ mental health and social health, and we’re doing the same thing at home. It’s a relentless profession right now. Take it easy on your teachers.”

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