Algebra teacher Josette Castell said she finds comfort in numbers. “It’s calming. I like order,” she explained. But hidden in the matter-of-fact statement is her enthusiasm for showing high school students how to solve algebra problems. “It’s really exciting. I love that moment when they say, that’s what it is!” It’s even more satisfying since Mrs. Castell said she’s been able to establish an online connection and bond with her students. “I feel almost like I communicate with my students more, even though I don’t see them. I feel like I’m more available online than I was in person,” as she explained the difference between teaching in a brick and mortar school environment.
Mrs. Castell is in her first year teaching at University View Academy and in her fifth year overall. UVA hired her over the summer. With COVID-19 protocols in effect and teachers working from home, Mrs. Castell hasn’t formally met many of her fellow high school team members. But she said that isn’t a drawback. She’s used Google Hangouts and Google Meet to establish a strong rapport with fellow teachers who can quickly answer her questions and give advice. “It’s just like walking into the office. They absorbed me into the team seamlessly. I’ve learned so much from them,” she offered. Mrs. Castell had already been teaching online in her previous school district due to the Covid shutdown in the spring, so she was ahead of the curve for learning UVA systems. “This is my new normal. Since this is all I know, it’s okay for me,” she submitted.
Her degree is in biology, and Mrs. Castell said she had thought about becoming a physician. Then, she said, “Life happened.” She had her first of three children while in college and had to change her priority to a profession where she could balance work and home life. Then she said she discovered the I Teach program. It’s a process to become certified as a teacher using an existing degree and work experience. She went back to school to fulfill the requirements and found teaching is her calling. “Teaching Brings me joy, she gushed.
Mrs. Castell also said working for UVA is one of her best decisions so far, saying it is “So much more than I expected. I’m really enjoying it.” She applauded the flexibility to meet with her students when they need it and marveled at how comfortable students are coming to office hours to seek help. It adds to the connection she has with her students. Mrs. Castell also said working from home makes it easier to balance life. She can care for her pre-school age youngest child and monitor the older ones as they attend school remotely. Uncomplicated is her description of what she likes. “I’m not the social type. I’m so boring,” she laughed.