Bob Duane, a classroom teacher at The Guild for Human Services, calls the last several months a “rewarding challenge” as he adapted to teaching students in residences rather than at school.

Instead of helping seven teenage students reach their individual academic potential in a structured classroom, COVID-19 has forced the veteran special-needs educator to deliver his lessons in a residential environment.

“It has been the most rewarding challenge of my career,” Bob reports. “It has been the most challenging time in my career, but it has been so rewarding to grow closer to the students and develop a greater sense of camaraderie with my colleagues.”

In the house setting, Bob now works with the residential staff to assist students to put on clean clothes, brush their teeth, apply deodorant, and other activities of daily living. Through this process, he has gained greater insight into each student and learned more about them as individual people.

“Their personalities are more visible in the residence,” Bob says. “I have been able to get to know the abilities of each student on top of the disabilities. It has enhanced my connection to each student and made me a more effective teacher.”

The students often greet him at the door each morning, which typically does not happen in the classroom. He has been struck by the students’ genuine concern for his well-being during the pandemic.

“I have had students say to me, ‘Bob, you look really tired today,’ ” he says. “It is uplifting to see your students show that they care about you. I will really miss this type of interaction when I return to the classroom.”

Online lesson plans and other remote learning technology have made the transition from teaching in a classroom to a residence easier for Bob and his Guild School colleagues. 

“The pandemic has forced me to enhance my ability to work with a variety of different resources, both online and traditional,” Bob says. “I have used technology in the past, but now we are using it almost exclusively.”

In addition to getting to know his students better during the pandemic, Bob has grown closer to his co-workers. For all of them, The Guild has become both a place where they work and a social community during a time of distancing and other restrictions.

“I know my colleagues as my extended family at this point,” Bob says. “I know who has kids, who is married, who is a vegetarian, where they went on vacation. We share our lives since we don’t have traditional social outlets. It has helped to sustain all of us.”