Andrea Gustafson knows all too well the power that words can evoke. Whether it’s spoken or written, words can convey impact all the same.
Gustafson, both an English teacher and a graduate of Morris high school, said it’s all part of why she got into teaching.
“I love speech communication and teaching them about the power of the spoken word and listening,” Gustafson said. “I love literature. So, it’s really just everything put together that I love and you get to share it and teach it to other people.”
Gustafson has been teaching for almost 20 years and is charged with chairing the speech team and directing the fall play at the school.
With Teacher Appreciation Month in May, Gustafson said it provides a great time to reflect on the teachers she had.
Gustafson cites her experiences with teachers, such as Carol Hughes, Kim DesLauriers and Judy Miller, for inspiring her to enter the profession.
“I always think about those three people at Teacher Appreciation time,” she said.
Gustafson added that she hopes her former teachers know how appreciated they are.
But during the ongoing pandemic, educators have faced their share of scrutiny over their response to the protocols imposed to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Gustafson said she hopes there is still a great appreciation for teachers regardless.
She said knows firsthand as a parent and an educator about the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“My daughter was a junior when COVID-19 hit and then was a senior here at the high school,” Gustafson said. “I experienced it from a parent perspective too. I was so grateful to her teachers. … working with students, extra Zoom meetings and doing really creative assignments. Being a teacher myself, I knew how much work and how much time that was taking.”
“Everything was more work,” Gustafson said. “I can tell you that I would work here in the afternoons, go home and take a little break, and then spend most of my evening, if not doing stuff for school, doing stuff … trying to figure out how to do streamed plays and how to do virtual speech tournaments. It was just never ending.”
Gustafson credits students’ success both inside and outside the classroom in light of COVID-19 to all the hard work put in by the coaches, parents/families and students.
“Seeing those same students come out and still work so hard at speech and work together,” Gustafson said. “And then this year, of course, be back in person was just really cool and really exciting. They’re great kids. I’m so lucky to work with them.”