Baux­ite coach, teacher sees un­cer­tainty while pre­par­ing for re­turn to the class­room

The Saline Courier Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Elisha Mor­ri­son el­isham@ben­ton­courier.com

Start­ing his fourth year at Baux­ite Mid­dle School, one teacher and coach sees un­cer­tainty about how this school year will go as he pre­pares to re­turn to the class­room.

Tommy Wim­berly is in his dream job as a sev­enth-grade ca­reer devel­op­ment and tools for learn­ing teacher at the mid­dle school while also serv­ing as head ju­nior high foot­ball coach and head bowl­ing coach.

As a self-de­scribed “Baux­ite boy,” Wim­berly, a 2008 Baux­ite grad­u­ate, al­ways wanted to re­turn to his home school to teach and coach.

“It has al­ways been my dream to come back to this com­mu­nity and pour into these kids,” he said, adding he wants to give stu­dents what he got from his teach­ers and coaches growing up.

Wim­berly is ex­cited to wel­come the stu­dents back. He and other teach­ers have been mak­ing videos to in­tro­duce them­selves to the stu­dents. The videos are avail­able on the Baux­ite Pub­lic Schools Face­book page.

He is sad the school will not have a tra­di­tional open house where he would get a chance to meet his stu­dents in per­son and give them a chance to get to know him be­fore the first day. He sees open house as a way to be­gin build­ing re­la­tion­ships with his stu­dents.

He con­sid­ers him­self a re­la­tional type of guy. He wants to be the sort of teacher stu­dents en­joy learn­ing from.

He ex­pects to have to do some on­line videos and as­sign­ments. He thinks he will most likely us his prep pe­riod to record his lessons for his on­line stu­dents.

Wim­berly al­ready has ex­pe­ri­ence with us­ing videos to teach. When his youngest son was born last year, he recored videos to get his stu­dents started on their lessons each day.

“We are go­ing to have to get in­no­va­tive,” Wim­berly said. “It will be a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for us all.”

He thinks vir­tual learn­ing will be a chal­lenge for many teach­ers and stu­dents.

Wim­berly has al­ready be­gun coach­ing foot­ball for the year. He said masks re­ally have not been a chal­lenge for the play­ers.

He knows the stu­dents are not go­ing to want to wear them

Editor’s Note: This is the first of many in a se­ries by The Sa­line Courier high­light­ing the re­turn to school amid the COVID-19 pan­demic.

and he un­der­stands that. If there is enough space for so­cial dis­tanc­ing, he hopes to be able to al­low stu­dents to not wear them.

“Kids don’t want to wear them. Teach­ers don’t want to wear them,” he said.

To en­sure plenty of room to so­cial dis­tance, he is pair­ing down his room to one teacher desk and re­mov­ing his com­puter desk and fil­ing cab­i­nets. In­stead of desks, he has ta­bles that usu­ally seat four to a ta­ble. He is still try­ing to de­ter­mine how to plan seat­ing.

He feels it is im­por­tant for stu­dents to be in the class­room be­cause it gives them a so­cial out­let and al­lows them to build ca­ma­raderie and re­la­tion­ships.

Wim­berly plans to pre­pare his lessons in ad­vance in case he does have to go into quar­an­tine he stu­dents can still learn. He will also make videos.

As a coach, he said he will fol­low the guide­lines set out by the Arkansas Ac­tiv­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion and the gov­er­nor.

“We are do­ing every­thing pos­si­ble to pre­pare for a sea­son,” he said.

He is choos­ing to stay up­beat.

His old­est son is go­ing into the eighth grade and he is look­ing for­ward to coach­ing him.

“I want a foot­ball sea­son to hap­pen but so much is un­cer­tain,” he said.

For bowl­ing, he does not ex­pect a change be­cause bowl­ing al­leys are al­ready open and it can be done so­cially dis­tant.

He be­lieves the big­gest af­fect on schools of the virus is the un­cer­tainty it has cre­ated for par­ents, teach­ers, stu­dents and staff. He feels peo­ple just want that sense of nor­malcy back.

He is choos­ing to em­brace faith over fear dur­ing this time. He be­lieves things will re­turn to nor­mal.

Wim­berly plans to fo­cus on be­ing en­cour­ag­ing and pos­i­tive for his stu­dents. He un­der­stands they are al­ready deal­ing with fear and anx­i­ety from be­ing cooped up since school let out in March.

“Tough times don’t last. Tough peo­ple do,” he said.

He hopes his at­ti­tude will rub off on the stu­dents.

Spe­cial to The Sa­line Courier

Coach and teacher Tommy Wim­berly is ex­cited, though un­cer­tain, about hav­ing his stu­dents back in the class­room. He hopes to show an up­beat, pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to help his stu­dents feel more pos­i­tive when they re­turn.

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