A Month Into School, This Music Teacher Says It’s Her Most Stressful Year Yet


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Before classes begin for the day, elementary music teacher Penelope Quesada gathers her most commonly used cleaning supplies and places them around the classroom in places of convenience.

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Quesada and student teacher Christopher Wolfzorn place box fans in open windows to keep air circulating. After doing her own research, Quesada decided to face one fan outward and one fan inward for better circulation.

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Quesada turns on a fan outside her classroom door. She spends most of her time before class on COVID-19 precautions. She has spent nearly $600 of her own money on air purifiers and fans to improve the ventilation in her classroom.

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Quesada poses for a portrait in her music classroom at Semple Elementary School in Louisville, Ky. She says she wants to continue teaching, but safe in-person learning involves so much more planning now than it did before.

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Quesada greets her second grade music class and gives them each a squirt of hand sanitizer as they enter her classroom.

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In order to keep them as separated as possible, students in Quesada’s third grade class stand on carefully placed stickers on the floor. Because of the space instruments take up, and the need for students to be able to see their teacher, there’s often only room for children to stand 3 feet apart, instead of 6.

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«I wish that schools serving the low economic families would be the priority. If those families get sick it’s really traumatic. Who is going to advocate for these kids? That’s what’s stressful for us teachers because we care a lot about these kids and these families. I’m worried about the kids and their caregivers, we have a lot of grandparents that take care of the kids,» Quesada says.

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When a student has trouble with his mask, Quesada gets him a new one and helps him put it on properly. She also uses a headset and speaker so students can hear her better through her mask.

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Students in Quesada’s third grade music class all get the opportunity to play a xylophone. Quesada does what she can to keep the instruments clean. Her xylophones are expensive and wiping them down regularly could ruin them, so instead she spends her morning wrapping them in plastic wrap.

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Quesada spends some class time helping students adjust their masks or replacing them if they need new ones.

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The sign outside Semple Elementary reminds students they are wanted in school everyday.

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Natosha Via is a freelance photojournalist in Louisville, Ky.

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