The cast performs during a rehearsal of Orono High School's production of "Rent" recently in Orono. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Shana Goodall teaches social studies at Orono High School. She is the 2018 Penobscot County Teacher of the Year and the 2019 Maine History Teacher of the Year. #LoveTeaching Week (Feb. 14–21) is a grassroots campaign started by teachers to celebrate teaching, leading and learning.

It’s been hard to #LoveTeaching over the past 11 months. Spring brought seemingly insurmountable challenges relocating me to a repurposed attic bedroom, separated from colleagues, distanced from students and their families, removed from my beloved school community. Teaching, interacting and connecting with my students across the gossamer threads of the internet with a screen full of avatars staring back at me.

August returned me to my classroom, almost unrecognizable as it had been redesigned for health and safety, reunited me with colleagues, and connected me with students old and new. All from behind a mask, plexiglass or computer screen and at least six feet apart.

These months have tested my physical, emotional and instructional reserves as I have navigated the pandemic and adapted to school in ways I could never have imagined. It’s been hard to #LoveTeaching, but yes I do #LoveTeaching.

I #LoveTeaching for the challenge, even in the non-pandemic times. Weather challenges: not a problem. Have you ever noticed that the parking lots at schools are filled with all-wheel drive vehicles? (Don’t even get me started on how many layers my colleagues at Asa Adams Elementary School put on for winter recess.)

The challenges of an ever-evolving curriculum, especially in social studies, involve continued learning, and thankfully there have been an abundance of opportunities for educators to learn or hone distance learning, assessment and teaching skills. It’s a challenge every day to have half of my class in front of me and the other half attending remotely.

It’s a challenge to get to know my students this year, as I am not able to kneel down next to their desks and have a quick quiet conservation, a smile and maybe a laugh. It’s a challenge to express joy, as we can’t give a high-five when they’ve mastered a concept, aced a test or done something outside of their comfort zone.

I’ve perservered and had plenty of individual Google Meets and Zooms, written and responded to what seems like thousands of emails, become a master of emoji’s and animated gifs, embarrassed myself with many corny teacher jokes and bad puns, and worked on “smiling” with my eyes.

I #LoveTeaching for my students, their families, and our communities. Everyone who works in a Maine public school will tell you that “the kids,” whatever age they may be, keep them coming back every day and every year. I am no different.

You’ll usually find me in the back of the room, last row of the bleachers, corner of the auditorium often with tears in my eyes at a student event. I tear up at basketball games, musicals, graduations, show choir concerts, you name it. Whenever a student of mine has practiced, persisted, and then performed, there are tears of joy and celebration. I like to think that I have this tough-as-nails high school teacher shell. In reality, I am more like a Cadbury Creme egg — sort of hard shell, but really soft emotional insides, cheering my students on and feeling their trials and triumphs.

I #LoveTeaching for those times I run into my students after graduation. When they see me, flag me down, and we get caught up in conservation. I’ve loved learning about the adventures my students have been on while standing in the service department after they finished fixing my car or in a tiny Manhattan bagel shop holding up the line to the dismay of the “regulars,” or wherever our paths cross. Often it is their unexpected thanks — for little things that I did when they were in our classroom, things that I might not even remember — that lift my soul, usually bring tears to my eyes and warm my heart.

I #LoveTeaching because it’s not all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. Teaching is one of the most challenging careers, but it is a career that chose me. For that I am grateful. I do #LoveTeaching.