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How a Triangle law firm is supporting teachers post-Covid

Posted November 23, 2021 5:00 a.m. EST

Whitley Law Firm recently recognized their Teacher of the Year, Jennifer Brent of Vance Elementary.

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.

Thinking back on elementary, middle and high school, many people have at least one teacher that sticks out in their mind — a teacher who made an impact that lasts to this day. A good teacher not only provides instruction — boosting grade point averages and test scores — but also empowers students to reach new heights, building confidence in themselves and their skills that lasts for years to come.

In order to recognize the impact of teachers — especially after the challenges they endured during Covid-19 — Raleigh's Whitley Law Firm asked the community to nominate their choice for Teacher of the Year. The winner, Jennifer Brent of Vance Elementary, received a $200 gift card, $300 worth of school supplies and a pizza party for her class.

Brent has been teaching for 19 years, spending her entire tenure in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms at Vance Elementary. For her, sticking with one school for her career has given her a frontrow seat to her students' journeys.

"One thing I always try to emphasize in my classroom is to build a family community throughout the year. I hope my kids know that once they're part of my family, they always are," said Brent. "My kids throughout the years have always come back to visit me — even during high school — and I love to see how they've grown and changed since the first grade."

In order to accomplish this sense of community, Brent's class has a morning meeting every day featuring plenty of get-to-know-you games. She also involves parents through ClassDojo, an education technology platform that allows for photo sharing, messaging and activities.

Before Covid, Brent would also encourage parents to come into the classroom and volunteer to read to the class. During the remote learning period, however, this wasn't possible, and ClassDojo was a major resource for Brent.

"Last year I was actually a virtual first-grade teacher for the entirety of the year, and it was hard. There were a lot of challenges, a lot of new things learned. Technology is my new friend, which it never was before," said Brent. "Learning remote did put the kids at a disadvantage, especially the ones who weren't able to participate at home or didn't have a good home support system. Moving forward, it's important to me to make sure that they're caught up and that they're able to continue with their peers."

Brent is right about the disproportionate effects that the pandemic had on certain students, including those who don't speak English as their first language, have a learning disability or aren't able to access technology at home.

Now that school is back in-person, Brent and other teachers across the Triangle are working day and night to ensure that each and every student is not only academically equipped, but also emotionally.

"It's more important now than ever to make sure that these kids have a sense of being and a sense of community to be involved in," said Brent. "As teachers, we're working to let them know that they're valued and appreciated every day."

While teachers everywhere are likely feeling burnt out from the effects of the pandemic and returning to in-person schooling, support and recognition like that offered by Whitley Law Firm help make a difference for the better.

"This is a tough time for a lot of teachers," said Brent. "I like to encourage them all to keep doing their best and remember why they got into this. It's for the love of the kids. From our instructional assistants to our bus drivers, we're all in this together."

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.

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