A year of perseverance

Teachers who thought about quitting reflect on this year of teaching


Sophie McKinney

Art teacher Breanna Bierod and english teachers Julie Breeden and Jessica Walpole standing proudly during the last week of school. They are proud of themselves and the rest of the SHS community.

Art teacher Breanna Bierod couldn’t conjure up her normal enthusiasm for the start of the school year. In fact, she couldn’t feel anything at all.

“I was completely numb,” Bierod said. “There wasn’t room for motivation because I was in survival mode.” 

SHS teachers like Bierod who considered almost quitting the profession at the beginning of the year are reflecting on the overall school year and how things have changed as the end of the year rolls around. 

Bierod struggled at the beginning of the year due to lack of stability and consistency. She, like many teachers, had the feeling there was an unintended lack of attention on teachers for all of the challenging tasks they were asked to perform.

“It felt like they were just throwing us to the wolves,” Bierod said. “There were so many things that happened back to back.” 

She was in shock during the beginning of the school year with the hybrid schedule. On top of that, she was required to teach a Preparing for College and Career class while being an art teacher, which made her think that her feelings were disregarded. 

During the beginning of the school year, she anticipated it to be unrealistic to accomplish what she normally would in a typical school year. She says that due to the limitation of not being able to see her students, she couldn’t critique as well, help students with work or demonstrate tasks to the students. 

When SHS administration decided on going back to school four days a week, Bierod was not sure of how she would feel about another change, but she slowly realized that it was exactly what she needed.

“Although I thought that was going to be my breaking point, it wasn’t,” Bierod said. “It was more where I started to recover.”

Throughout the school year she has learned that she and all teachers are capable of more than they realized. 

“Teachers can do anything, not to be cliche…” Bierod said. “I feel like at the same time it beat me down, it also brought me up.”

English teacher Jessica Walpole came to this realization a little bit later in the year due to the personal hardships she faced. At the start of the pandemic, her mother passed away unexpectedly. And during the summer, Walpole had a stroke at the age of 33. One of her former dancers unexpectedly passed away and, as school began, a student she worked with closely and knew very personally passed away too.

Due to all of the obstacles she was going through in her personal life, this took a toll on her mental health. Her ever-changing work environment didn’t help either. She was slowly falling into a place she didn’t want to be due to the lack of stability in her workplace. 

“This is a lot to deal with, and I just didn’t know if I was even capable of being the best teacher I could be because it was a lot on my mental health,” Walpole said.

She says her breaking point was when she went to one of the master teachers and broke down while explaining to them how she felt like nothing she was doing was enough, even though she was doing as much as she could. 

Thankfully, things started looking up and she gained a different mindset that sparked change.

“Now I’ve tried to be better and more reflective and just say at the end of the day, I did all I could,” Walpole said.

Although the consistency of going back to four days a week helped her mental health, it ultimately was the kids that helped her remember her passion for teaching in the first place. She admires students like junior Trevor Chambers who would keep the class on their toes.

“He did that with only two students in the class, and I don’t think he understands what it meant for me as a professional,” Walpole said.

Chambers says seeing Walpole endure  all of the heartache of the school year has even motivated him, so he tried to make teaching as easy as possible for her. 

“We were all shocked about the stroke because we didn’t think that would happen to her, but seeing how she was able to teach after that was amazing to all of us,” Chambers said.

When it comes to a personal level, English teacher Julie Breeden can relate. Breeden’s main reason for considering leaving SHS was the fear for her own life. She’s an older teacher, so she was more at-risk from the side effects of COVID-19. 

It took a lot for her to trust the administration and the CDC. It frightened her to put her health in the hands of others, but ultimately, she abided by their guidelines and advisement, and she hasn’t been contact traced and has not gotten the virus. 

“I think it is always difficult when you have other people making decisions that will affect your life, ” Breeden said. “When it’s decisions regarding life or death, we can get kind of critical of those decisions they’re making. I do think our administration was making the best decisions they could at the time.” 

Surprisingly, through the course of the school year, Breeden’s mental health ceased to improve, even when SHS went to a four-day schedule. 

“Coming back after spring break, my mental health was incredibly fatigued,” Breeden said. “And even thinking about coming back and changing things again was just a little bit overwhelming.”

Unlike Bierod and Walpole, her year has not been significantly better, but she looks forward to the summer to recover from what this year has done. She says she is more than ready to not have to think about school and safely enjoy time alone. 

“I am really looking at my summer calendar a lot differently,” Breeden said. “There will be no talk of school in June. I need to just be away from it for a while.”

All-around, this school year has not been practical for administration, teachers or students. And although there were moments that teachers even contemplated leaving their profession, one thing they all share in common is that their love for teaching is stronger. 

“It must mean a lot to me if I am willing to risk my life to do it,” Breeden said. “And I think especially when you have a job you like, you never sit down and decide that you want to keep doing it. You just keep doing it.”