Minnesota's Teacher of the Year prepares classroom for hybrid learning model

As students across the state adapt to virtual learning, some teachers are preparing for a hybrid model, allowing some students to still get an in-person experience.

Minnesota’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, Qorsho Hassan, is about to start classes at a new school, but this year will be unlike any other in her nine-year teaching career.

"I feel excited looking forward to being part of this school community. I'm new to Echo Park, but I'm also nervous because I know our cases are still rising," Hassan said.

Hassan’s fourth grade students at Echo Park Elementary in Burnsville will return in a hybrid model of both in-person and distance learning on Sept. 14.

Teachers and students will be required to wear masks, and desks will be socially distanced to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"I'm a very interactive teacher," said Hassan. "I like engaging with my students. I know students need hugs, they need proximity. So I'll have to think differently about how to support them and comfort them with the social distancing piece."

Hassan said her fourth graders will also have lunch in their classroom instead of a crowded cafeteria. The drinking fountain has also been wrapped up. Her students usually share their supplies and snacks, but Hassan will have to rethink that to keep both her students and herself safe.

"Personally, my mother has diabetes so she is at high risk, and I am concerned about potentially giving her COVID-19 as well," said Hassan.

Overall, Hassan said smaller class sizes – up to 12 kids – will help make the school’s pandemic plan a success. But, she said the district still has some homework to do about what the curriculum and sanitation protocols will look like.

"I know it will look different," said Hassan. "We can't have morning huddle together, but we are going to be in the same room and that is going to be powerful."

Hassan says teachers at her school got masks and face shields on Tuesday and they are supposed to have a presentation from the school nurse on sanitation protocols on Thursday.