‘A class is more than just a building’
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
The past year has been a series of what Elizabeth Thompson calls “major adaptations.” First, Thompson, an English and literature teacher at Darlington’s Mayo High School for Math, Science and Technology, was teaching her classes in the normal way that all schools taught classes before COVID-19. Then, after Gov. Henry McMaster shut down all S.C. schools in March 2020 to battle the virus, Thompson found herself teaching via computer, using a system called eLearning that the school district had intended only for short-term emergencies like hurricanes or winter storms. That continued until summer. Then, when Darlington County public schools were partially reopened in September, Thompson began splitting her time between in-person classes (using masks and social distancing) and online classes. Now, Thompson has her students back in person full-time, five days a week, although everyone continues to use COVID precautions that also include plastic partitions on students’ desks. “Right now, in the middle of COVID, it’s a struggle,” says Thompson, 48, who lives in her hometown of Hartsville. (She is a 1990 graduate of Hartsville High School.) “We all have different teaching styles we could rely on. All of a sudden, it was no classroom and all technology.” But she says she has learned that “a class is not necessarily a building.” Thompson, who is the Darlington County School District’s Teacher of the Year for 2020-21, has taught at Mayo since 2002. She was named Teacher of the Year in August. Her reaction: “A little bit of disbelief, but just gratitude.” COVID, of course, has made the past year supremely tough for her as well as all of the district’s students, faculty and staff. “You never know from week to week what COVID is going to throw out,” Thompson says. “ … It’s hard to look sometimes and see (students’) faces in boxes … like ‘The Brady Bunch’ opening credits,” she says of teaching using the ZOOM computer program, which lets groups of people see each other online. Next up for district teachers is the issue of getting COVID vaccinations; the district is working out details for how that will work. Thompson has not yet gotten vaccinated, “but my dad has.” Thompson is married (her husband, Tee, is from Laurens) and has one son, Hunter, and a daughter, Laura Kate. She is proud of the way the school district has dealt with the COVID crisis – when the schools were shut down and the county schools had to begin using the eLearning system, Thompson says, “We were able to turn that around in 48 hours.” “Our district is still in the business of educating the students,” Thompson says.