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First-Year Teacher Diary: ‘Is It Getting Any Easier? The Answer Is No’

Becky Oleksiw, a first-year teacher at Ritenour's Hoech Middle School in St. Ann. Photographed here in front of her school on Jan. 6, 2021.
Ryan Delaney
St. Louis Public Radio
Becky Oleksiw is a first-year teacher at Ritenour's Hoech Middle School in St. Ann. "Mrs. O," as she goes by in school, is navigating the ups and downs of starting her career as an educator during a pandemic.

To Becky Oleksiw, most school days feel like an eight-hour conversation with herself.

The first-year teacher in the Ritenour School District is having a hard time getting her eighth grade students to speak up during the endless lessons on Zoom. Teaching to black screens all day is leaving her exhausted.

Oleksiw, or “Mrs. O,” as she goes by, has been teaching entirely online since starting a job teaching English Language Arts at Hoech Middle School in St. Ann in August. There have been wins and memorable days: one new student sharing an offer of friendships, and an email address, to an even newer student.

“That’s a day that I will cherish and hold on to,” she said.

But there have been hard days, too. “People who love me and care about me have been checking in and asking: ‘How’s school going? Is it getting any better, is it getting any easier?’ The answer is no, I’m just getting used to it.”

Oleksiw is one of several new teachers documenting the start of their career as educators in audio diaries for St. Louis Public Radio. You can hear more about the first half of the school year by clicking “Listen” above. And check out our first entry here.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

Ryan was an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.