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SC teachers say internet access, emotional support needed for school return

Over 12,000 South Carolina teachers answered a survey on teaching during the coronavirus pandemic

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The University of South Carolina research team joined forces with the South Carolina Education Association, the Palmetto State Teachers Association and the South Carolina Department of Education to collect data from teachers. They surveyed over 12,000 South Carolina educators on what it’s like to teach during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, educators gathered at the Palmetto State Teachers Association to release their findings. Two big takeaways were the need for emotional support and the need to improve internet access.

“Every child in South Carolina must have internet access in their homes. Having internet today is the same thing as making sure kids had a textbook in the 1950's and 1960's,” says Barnett Berry, member of the USC research team.

Their results showed that, on top of students struggling with internet access, teachers are, too.

“We had teachers that were driving to parking lots to do their lessons on a cell phone because they didn’t even have their own laptops," says Sherry East, a high school science teacher from Rock Hill and the SCEA president . "We had administrators driving to McDonald's parking lots to try to get on and do their work during the pandemic.”

Four in 10 teachers reported that their students did not have internet access or were not comfortable using digital tools at home.

“When we asked teachers what really concerned them the most, the well-being of their students was number one on their list. And most importantly their concerns were yes, about academic learning loss, but even more so about the social emotional needs that kids had and were not being addressed,” Berry says.

Chanda Jefferson, 2020 South Carolina teacher of the year says, "my heart especially went out to the communities that serve our must vulnerable students. Teachers help students process being away from school, and help them process trauma, while trying to keep themselves together.”

The survey also asked questions on how often teachers communicate with their students, the effectiveness of different instructional strategies, and what caused them the most stress.

The team summed up their findings with recommendations. They include eliminating the technology divide, developing a learning management system for teachers, investing in training and schools collaborating with social workers and nurses.

To see the full report, click here.