Annie Sorenson enjoys teaching English language arts at Sauk Centre High School, despite the challenges that come with distance learning.

Teaching English language arts at Sauk Centre High School and parenting three boys has not been an easy task to juggle amidst the COVID pandemic, but Annie Sorenson is doing the best she can. She knows she is not alone as fellow teachers, parents and students are all trying to find a balance, she said.

Marred to Corey and with their sons, Parker, 13, distance learning from home and Beckham, 6, and Yaeger, 5, staying at Kids Connection, which provides child care for Tier I workers, Sorenson said, it’s all coming together somehow. She is extremely thankful for the excellent and amazing women at Kids Connection. Not only for watching Beckham and Yaeger, but also for making sure they get all of their school work get done during the day.

“I am incredibly spoiled by them. I don’t know what I would do without them,” she said.

Sorenson became an English language arts teacher last year after she graduated from the St. Cloud State University with a bachelor’s degree in communications, arts and literature teaching. What inspired her to become a teacher was her experience working as paraprofessional at the high school and coaching junior high track.

“I realized this is my place, these are my people and this is where I need to be,” she said.

Before she became a teacher, Sorenson also worked as a project manager for a flooring company and in different positions within the food industry, waitressing, serving and bartending. She believes that daily interaction with a wide range of customers have helped her to become an even better teacher.

One of the many things Sorenson loves about being a teacher is interacting with her students and having discussions with them.

“I like to the see world from their perspective and for them to share their own feelings, thoughts and perspectives. That’s really my favorite thing,” she said.

Sorenson said that by the third quarter of last year, she was finally feeling like she was really getting the hang of things. Then suddenly COVID hit and all school districts moved to distance learning. While teaching distance learning may be challenging, she finds that it is more coordinated now than during fourth quarter.

“We were kind of asynchronous last spring. We didn’t have regularly scheduled meetings or classes. It was kind of all over the place. This year it’s a different kind of hard,” she said.

Sorenson said one of the biggest challenges as a teacher is to get the students to engage over a screen versus being in person in the classroom. It’s also pretty common for students to have different distractions at home.

“When we are in the classroom, they are not allowed to have cellphones, but that is hard to regulate through a screen. You often see a television flickering in the background, so they are probably not paying as close of attention as you’d like. There are also quite a few students with siblings who are also in Google meets and who are trying to do learning from home, so there’s a lot of background noise,” she said.

Despite the challenges that arise from time to time with distance learning, Sorenson said she enjoys teaching and interacting with her students. She, as well as the students, miss the daily face-to-face contact they had before the pandemic.

Because of her love for teaching, it is sometimes hard for her to take a break. To ensure she keeps a healthy balance, Sorenson said she sometimes leaves the work laptop at the school overnight or over the weekend.

“I know if I have it at home, it is going to be all about planning, lessons and school,” she said.

Sorenson said she is very thankful for her husband’s support and help. He also understands her need to decompress and simply have a break from her responsibilities to just do something for her.

“A lot of times he will let me do my things for a while at night whether that is to read a book or just watch Netflix to decompress,” she said.

Other times, Sorenson just likes to do group workouts at her gym.

As life continues during the pandemic, she encourages people to be flexible and to show one another a lot of grace.    

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