LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The start of the new school year is quickly approaching as Kentucky teachers prepare to welcome students back into their classrooms.

Some JCPS teachers were back in those classrooms Monday, getting them ready for a year that will come with some familiar challenges.

What You Need To Know

  • Some JCPS teachers are back in their classrooms, getting them ready for the coming school year

  • One teacher says students having to wear masks will be a challenge

  • She says safety against violent acts is also something on a lot of teachers’ minds

  • Despite these challenges, this teacher says she can’t wait to see how her students grow throughout the year

Entering her third year of teaching at Fern Creek Elementary School, Tiffany Maddix has yet to have a non-pandemic teaching experience in her classroom. Organizing her room on Monday came with a lot of excitement for the coming school year.

“Watching the kids change throughout the year is amazing,” she said. “It’s exciting getting your classroom together. You’re thinking about it. What am I going to do this year? How am I going to do it differently? What am I going to change up?”

It also came with plenty of stress for Maddix, who has eight years of total teaching experience, as she attempted to get the room ready for her new second-grade class.

“You start a project. I was like, oh I’m gonna clean out my cabinets and do all that, and then I was like, oh my god, what am I doing, why did I get into this? All those different projects start to stress you out. But by the end of the week, it’ll start looking like a classroom,” Maddix said.

One change Maddix said she’s excited to bring back is flexible seating for her students, offering them options like yoga balls and pillows to sit on instead of the traditional school chair.

“Sometimes they’re just not comfortable. And they’re not fun to sit in for six and a half hours a day,” Maddix said. “I started it like mid-year of 2020. So I got to do it for like a month and a half. And then it was like, oh hey guess what, we’re going on leave.”

Alternative seating options likely won’t be a tough sell, but getting her second graders to wear masks, as they will be required to, could be a little trickier, especially considering students were not required to wear masks as they closed out the previous school year.

“Going back to teaching masks is a whole other world. So that’s kind of stressful. Just especially with the younger ones, like being able to hear them, understand them,” Maddix said.

First grade teacher Samantha Smith said if it means having her students with her in person, she’ll gladly keep the mask on, and said she thinks the kids will too.

“Kids are so resilient. And they want to be here in person. So they’re going to wear the masks. Yes, sometimes we might have to remind them, ‘OK it goes over your nose and your mouth, that’s to protect other people and yourself,’” Smith said. “They want to be here with their friends, so they’ll do whatever it takes to be here with their friends.”

Making teachers and students feel more safe at school has been an ongoing conversation considering deadly shootings that have occurred at schools across the country. A new Kentucky law mandates every school have a school resource officer, if the school has the means to do so.

Maddix acknowledged the inherent risk that comes with being a teacher in 2022.

“I do feel safe, but also not. I mean, I know we have the systems in place for that, which is great. But in the world we live in today, it’s still a very fearful and scary thing as a teacher every day,” she said. “You’re not just fearing for your life. I mean, you have anywhere from 25 to 35 kids in your class that you’re responsible for.”

Despite those concerns, and the many other challenges teachers face, Maddix was in her classroom, getting it ready for the kids who will soon sit on yoga balls, listening to her lessons. Because they need a teacher, and she loves being one.

The first day of school for JCPS this year is Aug. 10.