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School is ‘changed forever.’ This teacher shares why.

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This article is part of the Future Forward series. Find the full series here.

Sara Lilley is an elementary school teacher in Vance County where she’s been teaching for over a decade. This past year has shown her the importance of personalized learning in her classroom, she said.

I teach third grade math. I have a few students who are actually working on fifth grade content. I have a couple kids who are working on first grade standards. The kids have no idea. They don’t know that they’re doing different work than their classmates.

Sara Lilley, a third grade teacher at Clarke Elementary School

This year also deepened Lilley’s commitment to building strong relationships with students and showed how critical those relationships are when it comes to learning acquisition.

“One of my strengths is the relationships I build with my kids. I put relationships before content. Because if a kid doesn’t have a good relationship with you, they’re not going to learn from you,” said Lilley.

Being in the school building makes it easier for teachers to develop relationships with students, according to Lilley. While it’s certainly possible and still critical to connect with students in a virtual classroom, “it’s a little bit harder to do behind the computer screen,” said Lilley.

In this episode, Lilley explains that she hopes “worksheets are a thing of the past.” There are many other ways to engage young learners outside of using worksheets and Lilley believes that personalized learning allows for much more flexibility for teacher’s to meet the individual needs of students.

Overall, Lilley says that after the pandemic, school will never be the same. 

“I think school’s changed forever. And I think if school doesn’t change forever, shame on us.”

Listen to the full conversation here.

Alli Lindenberg

Alli Lindenberg is an executive fellow for EducationNC.