By: Amelia Kimberling
After Jenks announced its return to in-person schooling on September 3rd, family and medical leave requests were filed by teachers across the district. While some teachers scrambled to adjust lesson plans and organize their classrooms in a way that abided to the realm of pandemic, not everyone planned to return. It was not an easy decision to make. The Torch sat down with Rachel Langley, who taught AP Physics II along with a variety of other science classes, to understand the circumstances behind her resignation.
“On September 3rd, I was blindsided,” Langley states. “We’ve just added this whole layer of switching and confusion and distrust.”
With the numbers still high and only a week to prepare, she felt unable to properly make plans for herself and her family. Langley has personal health concerns herself, so she felt unsafe returning to an in-person structure so quickly. She also expressed concerns with how class was going to be instructed.
“I feel like there were solutions out there that would’ve been better for more people, and I don’t know why they weren’t considered,” she mentions.
While Langley acknowledges it’s nearly impossible to know which way would have been the best, she mentioned other methods schools like Owasso were considering such as an AB schedule. This type of in-person learning would only have half the kids at school one part the week while the other half would be on the other part. It would minimize the amount of students on campus, and possibly help control the blockage in the hallways between classes as well as keep class sizes small enough to properly socially distance.
Despite these hiccups that prevented her from returning to school, it didn’t make leaving behind her students any easier.
“You guys give me hope for the future,” she explains.
She further explained how she loves teaching high school age students, and that because of her husband’s finances, she could have left at any time. But she stayed because of her love for teaching and the relationships she could form with her students.
“It was really hard to leave,” she says. “But I don’t regret it.”
Langley’s shoes will be hard ones to fill considering she was the school’s only AP Physics II teacher, but Principal David Beiler assures administration is doing their best to look for a qualified individual to take her place.
“In addition to posting openings (jobs) through our Human Resources department, we are able to network with various contacts to find qualified individuals,” Beiler says. “We do our best to make sure students have appropriate learning activities and assignments with qualified substitutes until we find permanent teachers.”
As for her own future, Langley explained she has many options to consider. She‘s had a few virtual school offers as well as an opportunity to help an old student remodel an old prison into a homeless shelter. Currently, she has been trying to help match Key Club members with kids in need of virtual tutoring; since the pandemic has greatly decreased the range of volunteer opportunities, tutoring is a great way to get hours to put towards graduation and onwards. For the most part though, she has used this time to take a step back, breathe, and enjoy the company of her family.
The teacher’s leaves have sparked a lot of heated discussion on social media platforms like Facebook, so we asked Langley for her response to the backlash.
She says, “No matter where you sit in the discussion, no matter what your opinion is, I think it is important to listen to and empathize with people who don’t feel the way that you feel. Because this is a tough time and if we don’t care for each other, it’s gonna be worse.”