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Decatur teacher adjusts in COVID-19 world

Decatur teacher adjusts in COVID-19 world


Editor's note: This story is part of a series in which reporters check with Central Illinoisans about how their lives have changed in the pandemic. Read the series here.

In the midst of a pandemic, Sara Nave and her family moved to a new home.

Nave, a teacher at Dennis School, which is expanding into a second campus in the fall, had intended to teach summer school this year. That would have made moving even more of a challenge.

“The kids are old enough now that they don't need me as much during the day, but when I found out summer school was going to be virtual, then I was like 'No, thank you,'” Nave said.

Instead, while school's been closed for the stay-at-home order and now that summer break is underway, she's been a stay-at-home mom for the first time. Now that things are opening back up, there are more opportunities to do things with the kids. 

“Last night we went to Krekel's,” she said. “We're kind of regulars at the west side location. We went and had food outside on their patio, so we were pretty excited. I think our day to day has kind of become our new normal. We spend a lot more money on food than I'm used to. I'm making stir fry right now for the kids, which I'm sure they won't eat. We're trying different things.”

The family also has memberships at Scovill Zoo and the Children's Museum of Illinois, and while the zoo has opened, the museum has not. Her husband is working full time, so they plan short trips and family excursions for weekends, and Nave said she likes to take the kids outdoors as much as possible.

“I used to go running and my husband and I have taken to taking the kids on walks,” she said. “We bought bikes so they can learn to ride. We're doing self-care things as a family.”

With two small children, one going into the second year of preschool and one going into first grade, Nave and her husband, Tim, are also trying to help the children understand current events. She also wants to prepare for the discussions that might arise in her classroom among her students.

The shutdown has been hard for her children, ages 4 and 5. The Naves don't scare them with talk of mortality rates, instead concentrating on telling them why they have to wear masks and why things are closed.

"It's been rough on them. It's been rough on all of us," she said. "We have family members, my daughter included, that are high risk and so we really followed the guidelines and have not had any gatherings. Now that we've moved into our new house, we hope to have a nice outdoor celebration to celebrate her turning four and my son graduating kindergarten."

Recent events have made Nave more keenly aware of how children react to news, and she's been helping her kids cope with all of it.

“I want to learn a little bit more about cultures that make up Decatur,” she said. “With the movement and the protests and everything recently, (my own) kids had a lot of questions. We have sources here to answer those questions, and I want to take the opportunity to teach them, but also teach myself and learn about the different cultures and what I can do to make sure I'm making home and classroom inclusive for everybody.”

Decatur schools have released a tentative plan for fall. The district could remain in remote learning only, open schools as usual, or some hybrid of the two. That makes it difficult for teachers like Nave to prepare for fall. The solution for her is to make multiple plans in concert with her fellow teachers at Dennis.

“Dennis is going into a big transition (with the expansion into a second building),” she said. “We have new staff starting. My team is specifically planning as if we're going to be starting in August with a plan of attack in case we can't. I think it's important to have a Plan B, so we're not struggling, once the school year is finalized, to get those plans in place.”

With no idea how things could change between now and then, Nave is taking things one day at a time.

“A lot of people think teachers' job is to teach and everything else is second. My job is to keep the kids safe, and once feel they feel safe, they're able to learn.” 


How we're doing: Decatur-area residents share pandemic stories

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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