Looking Back on 2021: One Teacher's Journey During the Pandemic

NBC 7's Rory Devine followed a teacher through a year of the pandemic

NBC Universal, Inc.

During the pandemic I have been covering education, one of the most important issues of this time. When the pandemic started, I was privileged to be able to follow teacher Joanne Ensign through her experience, from when schools closed and on-line learning kicked off to when schools re-opened and in-person learning began. 

It was inspirational. 

As a teacher for more than 30 years, Ensign teaches children in transitional kindergarten through kindergarten. While they may be young, her students need to go to school; it's a time in their lives when they need to learn to interact socially, to read, to write, to leave Mom and Dad.

Ensign takes her job at Ocean Beach Elementary School seriously. While her students may not be applying to college (children who are also suffering during the pandemic), they are in their formative years and need their teacher “to make school happen,” whether that's online or in-person — all while social distancing and wearing a mask. 

Try to imagine her job.

It's hard for me to imagine. Even though I was a high school teacher and have an idea of what it was like to teach during ordinary times, these are extraordinary times.

I could empathize with Ensign. I was dealing with my own challenges with technology, trying to meet deadlines at my job. I was accustomed to my photographer handling the technology end for me … and I still had IT, which Ensign no longer had. She had even less support than I had and had 20-plus young children depending on her.

I remember going to Ensign's classroom when schools reopened. She had all sorts of gadgets she had mastered so she could teach children who decided to go back to the classroom for in-person learning. At the same time, she would be instructing children online who remained at home. 


I feel I bonded with Ensign over the challenges of technology, and she made my plight look so small. She knows her job, she knows how to teach, and she did not let anything stop her from doing what was necessary for her students.

Tenacious, dedicated, perseverant: Ensign inspired me.

Joanne Ensign is one of the many teachers whom I met along this pandemic journey (Yes! Now it’s an adjective), educators I deeply admire and thank.

I know their journey continues.

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