ORLANDO, Fla. – If there's one group that's had to drastically alter the way they do their jobs every day because of the coronavirus, it's definitely teachers.
All of Central Florida finished the school year with distance learning and most teachers had just days to figure out the best ways to continue to teach their students.
But some, like Catherine Mohr, who’s been teaching for 37 years, took the challenge on the chin, going above and beyond to get results for her students.
“When I think of a hero as a child, I used to think it was the Superman or the Batman,” Mohr said. “And then as I matured, I thought about it more. And I said, ‘You know what? My father can be a hero. A teacher could be a hero.’ A hero is someone who just acts to help something else.”
So by her own definition, the Princeton Elementary School fifth grade science teacher is something of a hero. But as far as she's concerned, she's really just someone who takes care of her students.
“I always try to become what I call their mama bear, and they’re my cubs. And so I try to create a family of us together,” Mohr said.
So when the time came to change her lesson plans for the year on a dime and do her best to get results for those cubs, Mohr decided she had no choice but to go all out.
“I had to try a lot of different ideas. And I would ask the kids, ‘You know, what did you like? What did you not like? What could I do more?’ And that’s when I started to do the things with the students interactively, more with the experiments and such,” Mohr said.
Experiments like what she called The Floating Orb, or putting a balloon on a skewer. She also used the absorbent material found in baby diapers for a lesson using water and plastic cups that resembles a magic trick.
“Well, it’s science, it’s not really magic. It’s science,” Mohr said. “It’s based on polymers. And what I had done, are you familiar with baby diapers, and they grab all that water? Well, those are actually molecules going together that are polymers and they’re smushed all together and they absorb that water.”
Mohr was also able to connect their science lessons to help give kids a better understanding of what was going on with the coronavirus pandemic and how best to stay safe.
“There were a lot of things online that I used showing the difference between washing your hands for four or 20 seconds versus hand sanitizer,” Mohr said. “We talked about the way that, I meet with you, but you might have met with four or five other people. And then the effects scientifically, you know, what could happen? I would be really exposed to who you met and the other person met. So we were able to figure out, yes, there is a need to do some of the things that we’re doing.”
Her advice for parents who may have been struggling with distance learning, especially if it is a large component next year, is to try to go with the flow.
“Be flexible and have a good sense of humor,” Mohr said. “You know, if you don’t, you’re just going to go crazy. So don’t be so stressed about it. We’re going to get it done. We’re now more experienced than we were before.”
And though it's still a bit uncertain yet what the next school year will bring, Mohr said she hopes she will be able to interact more with her students again. She said she's already been exploring different options to make sure she's able to do so safely, but ultimately, she will do whatever she has to to make sure those students get what they need.
“They’re my cubs, you know, they’re my children for that 180 days and more than that, really,” Mohr said. “And if it means me having to go to someone’s house and standing my distance away and showing them how to do something through their window or their front door, I’ll do it. I mean, we do those kind of things for our kids.”