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With the mandatory statewide school closings in place for the remainder of the year due to COVID-19, Jonelle Gurley has held her high school science classes virtually through Zoom. Like countless other teachers on Nantucket and beyond, Gurley is tasked with teaching her lessons in honors chemistry and biology while also trying to help her students adjust to the new normal. “We are just driving this theme home that we are all in this together,” Gurley said. “It’s not normal for any of us.”

Although not assigning tests or exams, she has continued to grade her students on the completion of their assignments. “For me, it’s more about the social-emotional balance of my kids, making sure they are checking in,” Gurley described. “A lot of the students really depend on that formal structure of the school day. Without that, it's hard to connect.”

Teaching classes with an average of twenty-two students, Gurley has used Zoom to meet students individually who may speak English as a second language or who have special needs. During these sessions, she’s been inspired by their resiliency. “I don’t think these students get enough credit for the amount of grit that they do have,” Gurley said. “Our kids have a strong sense of self and that’s something I wish I had more of at their age.”

This spring marks four years since Gurley began teaching at Nantucket High School, which means her first-year students will be graduating this June. “It’s been incredible to see how much they have evolved and transformed, not just as students, but as young people,” Gurley said. “I’m probably going to cry a lot this year for the graduates. They are my first set of babies and, yep, they are growing up.” — Written by Rebecca Nimerfroh

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