Kathy Stockdale’s road in education has been long and winding. Tuesday night, May 12, the Iowa Falls Rock Run fifth grade teacher watched as a lot of the people on that road drove by her and waved.
In what has become a frequent scene across the nation during the coronavirus pandemic, Stockdale and other Iowa Falls elementary teachers held a “reverse” parade – teachers stationary, waving and cheerfully shouting at students and their families in vehicles. Alden Elementary staff hosted a similar parade on Monday night.
For Stockdale, it was a chance to reconnect with this year's students, as well as those she's taught in the past. She had been a long-term substitute, worked at kindergarten prep, and has worked her way up through every grade level to fifth grade. This is her first year at that level after returning to teaching three years ago. She said she's taught a lot of these students twice.
"I've gotten to know the families," Stockdale said. "I taught for 10 years, subbed for 10 years, and now I'm back."
It’s been a strange year for everyone who participated in the parade in the IF-A High School parking lot on Tuesday night. It’s been a strange couple months in education, anyway. When Gov. Kim Reynolds announced on April 17 that schools would remain closed through the end of May, it put teachers and students in unknown territory. Territory that Stockdale said has changed.
“Actually, it has gone really well,” Stockdale said. “I’ve only had one student that has had technical difficulties, but all of my 21 students have been on at some point – and most of them are coming every week. We try to change it up. The first week that we actually taught a lesson, I thought that that is why I do this.”
That first week, Stockdale said, her class read a story and talked about it on Zoom video conferencing. That’s what she missed about teaching when the schools were ordered closed.
“It was fun to actually teach a lesson on Zoom,” Stockdale said. “At first it was more just social and emotional and making sure everybody was doing OK. Now we’re trying to do fun educational things. But, it’s very different.”
After all of that - the technical glitches, the cameo appearances during classes held on Zoom – something like the parade was much appreciated. Especially for teachers who, like Stockdale, who have grown to know the families.
“It’s a good way to have some closure with our students,” Stockdale said. “And also, we get to know their whole families. So we get to see their parents and their siblings – even though their siblings are showing up on Zoom. I am so glad that we chose to do this tonight and got to connect with them a little bit.”
Stockdale did her best to stop every car carrying a fifth grade student. They'll be going to Riverbend Middle School next year, and she told them she wants them to still feel connected. It got a little emotional, she admitted.
"I've shed some tears tonight, and I shed some when Gov. Reynolds said that school was closing," Stockdale said. "I knew that that would happen, but it was still really hard."