A virtual welcome back for English teacher Cathy Sabol She has returned to Southwest CTA after two years of retirement

Leaning over the edge of an air balloon, floating at about 2,000 feet above the ground, Sabol takes in the aerial view of the sunset. Although Sabol has taken a break from traveling around the world, it was moments like these that Sabol treasures most. “[This was] my first ever hot air balloon ride in Luxor, Egypt.” Sabol said.

Retiring after 25 years of teaching experience, English teacher Cathy Sabol has returned to teaching full-time at SWCTA. With all of CCSD attending school virtually, Sabol didn’t experience the typical welcome back. 

“I wanted to go back to school and be in the hallway [to] see people in person because I taught there, have been set there, and have friends there,” Sabol said. “I go in on Fridays, or have been for two weeks, and that sort of feels like the older world.”

With plenty of free time in her schedule, she decided to see different parts of the world.

“My favorite part of retirement was being able to travel during the off-season,” Sabol said. “I was able to travel frequently when I was retired; the high point was my trip to Egypt.”

Although going from one continent to another made for memorable experiences, Sabol chose to come out of retirement.

“I came back because I no longer felt the burn-out that led me to retire,” Sabol said. “Plus, I love SWCTA and the people I work with here. I’m really lucky to work with a group of people that I’m comfortable collaborating with and with asking for help.” 

Sabol isn’t the only one happy to be back, as sophomore students are getting to know her.   

What I like the most so far about Ms. Sabol’s English class is that she leads class discussions, which helps to get everyone to participate,” sophomore Malorie Schwartz said. “Ms. Sabol [helps] me by going over what we are expected to do for assignments. For example, when we worked on paraphrasing stanzas from the Trojan War in a Nutshell poem, she went through a few examples with us in class, so that we would be more prepared when we did it on our own.”

Not only has Sabol made an impact on the academic side in her virtual classroom, but she has also positively affected her students’ mentally. 

“The way she welcomed her students virtually on the first day we all met made me realize that maybe this school year won’t be so bad,” sophomore Kaya-Rose Cabilao said. “She was very enthusiastic, which is what I loved. The way she talks about the concepts we’re going to be learning this semester makes me really excited about what we’re going to learn. Ms. Sabol makes sure that everyone participates, even though it can be really nerve-racking when she calls on people randomly. She makes the class comfortable and [creates] a safe place for all students to share their ideas.”

Distance learning hasn’t been without difficulty for Sabol, who’s spent much of her time finding the best way to present and teach the curriculum to her students.

“I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out things that I used to do in the classroom that just aren’t going to work,” Sabol said. “Yesterday I spent about two hours editing ‘Hamlet,’ but it’s still too long. We’re not going to do just daily pieces [in class], but [students] can’t do something that’s going to stretch forever virtually. It’s too much reading. So, I’m spending hours finding text and cutting text. There’s all sorts of workarounds that [don’t] show on the student end how much time it takes to put together.”

She has gotten good feedback from her students after successfully changing and improving her teaching techniques.

“I like that she actually teaches and puts in the effort, instead of just reading off slides,” sophomore Maha Chaudry said. “I’m excited to learn, and [I] like engaging in English because it mostly has to do with the teacher. She makes it easier by helping us through things we don’t understand. So if we don’t really get a poem or a story, she’ll go back and re-read it with us and practice breaking it down with us”

Although this school year began with a lot of bumps, Sabol is determined to come to terms with the situation and to make the best of it for herself and her students, starting with Dr. Jara’s letter, which she presented to her class on the first day of school.

“I’ve [started] going in on Fridays, and we’ve had some issues in my classroom where the set up wasn’t quite right,” Sabol said. “I had to get a new computer brought in and reposition things. So, we’ll see and that’s the whole point. That’s the whole reason why I shared Dr. Jara’s letter because I had to get there myself. I had to say that this is what it is and we’re going to make this work. This has got to be one of the good parts.”

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