Teaching in a Pandemic: Ms. Sandoval’s Take


Ms. Sandoval at her new desk in C13

It’s safe to say that 2020 will not be a year people look back on fondly. Whether it be quarantine, losing a loved one, becoming unemployed, or simply not knowing what tomorrow will bring, everyone has struggled. For Cresskill High School’s new English teacher, Ms. Izabella Sandoval, even the question of teaching in-person was unclear for many months.

“When I got hired it was all still up in the air, we did not know what the format was going to look like – it was a very last minute decision.” said Ms. Sandoval. When Cresskill High School offered her a position, it was still early May and she did not know if she would ever be able to meet all of her students in person. Ms. Sandoval’s mother is a nurse working on the front lines of COVID-19, so she saw first-hand how serious this virus was and how important it is to follow protocol. She admitted that her first day of teaching was scary because she did not know how long it was going to last, but now a month into school, she feels more comfortable teaching during a pandemic and is optimistic that school will remain in person. 

Ms. Sandoval didn’t always plan to be a teacher. “I got inspired as I was going through undergrad so I made that decision in my junior year,” she revealed. She started off college at TCNJ as an English major and later earned a Master’s degree at Montclair University. Her main inspiration came from a professor she had in college, Dr. Tarter, who taught a GED program in a correctional facility for women. “She’s done a lot of stuff with prison reform, and she’s really big on that.” Ms. Sandoval explained. “She always told me like ‘y’know, Izabella, you should come and you should tutor and see what I do in this creative writing class in the all-women’s correctional facility.’ ” Ms. Sandoval decided to go and loved it, so she kept coming back year after year. Dr. Tarter is still helping her to this day.

Ms. Sandoval wants to be able to build relationships with her students which has been her favorite thing so far in her young teaching career. “I love getting to know people and seeing the individuals here,” she said, “but that isn’t necessarily possible right now. I want to make sure I get that personal connection with everyone.” She’s been making an effort to connect with her full remote students and she wants to make sure that they are getting the help they need, knowing they can contact her at any time. “I send emails — little check-ins — to make sure my all virtual, all full remote are good,” she explains. 

But it hasn’t all been so easy. “One thing that I particularly struggle with is getting my in-class students to interact with my online students,” Sandoval said. “I want the students to lead the floor.” But it’s been hard to get a full conversation going, as she often has to repeat everything that’s said for her online students.

Fortunately, Ms. Sandoval has gotten a lot of help from some of her fellow teachers. “Ms. T…is my savior,” she raved about her fellow English teacher, Michelle Taliento. “I ask her at least ten questions every day.” Her mentor teacher, Nicole Bodine, has also been a huge help. “She’s absolutely amazing, as well. Always there for me, always ready to answer [any question] I possibly have.” Both teachers have been sharing past lessons with her to adapt for her classes. 

Ultimately, Ms. Sandoval, despite the obstacles in her way, wants her students to see how they’ve grown. “[A goal] I have for this year is to make sure that the feedback that I give my students… [is taken] and they, along with me, see that progression.”