Pandemic Learning: A Mind-boggling Year

Pima County Superintendent takes us through unprecedented journey
Posted at 7:41 PM, Dec 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-28 16:38:31-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — No one could argue that 2020 has been the most extraordinary year in education.

Pima County Superintendent Dustin Williams explains it this way.

“So if you told someone from January to December you would see everything that you've never seen in your life when it comes to education, we just saw that come through,” he said.

It was a much different narrative in January when Governor Doug Ducey announced during his State of the State address a budget proposal that pumps billions of dollars into Arizona schools.

And then in a moment's time, COVID hit — and hit hard.

“We went from shutting down schools, shutting down government, going into remote graduation,” he said.

For the first time in history, all teachers taught all students online.

School leaders had to suddenly adjust -- a Herculean task in education that challenged superintendents like never before.

“It can take several years to develop a plan so it's hard for them to turn on a dime,” said Williams.

Teachers taught students through tiny boxes on a digital screens.

“That's not how they click. They're a very face to face, very emotional type of employee and so to watch them adapt has been pretty incredible,” Williams explained.

While those thousands of tiny faces filling digital screens adapted too, in an instant parents became pseudo teachers — no longer just helping with homework on nights and weekends.

“Well now that got multiplied to the whole day and that's been really hard for parents to do,” said Williams.

It was hard to imagine the pandemic stretching beyond summer, but it did and school leaders prepared, just in case, for hybrid learning.

The challenges are now even greater as learning gaps widen while the pandemic drags on.

But Williams believes this unprecedented test of resilience is transforming education in an unpredictable way.

He said, “We never thought kids could advance in a certain areas or teachers at the pace and speed that they did. And now moving forward we'll figure out how to take the best of both worlds when this comes back."

Sooner, hopefully, than later.