The Role of a Teacher Post-Pandemic

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    Kelly Cook pictured at her desk, photo by Matilda Preisendorf

    Teachers and educators have been a foundation behind every student, and strive to continue to bring inspiration and knowledge to young and old alike. 

    Born and raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Kelly Cook began her educational experience in a Catholic school, and later attended Cheyenne Central for high school. Her life in Greeley started after the University of Northern Colorado offered her a scholarship, and she came with a plan to study Spanish. But, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history education from UNC, Cook moved again, this time to Denver. She eventually came back to Greeley, and this time, decided to call it home. 

    She has created a life in the Greeley community as an educator, wife, mother and small business owner. She and her husband, Jeff Cook, are proud owners of two Greeley businesses, Atlas Theater and the Ambry. Together they are raising two children, Augie and Becket, who are both high school students in Weld County. 

    After getting her master’s degree at UNC in modern American history, Cook began teaching at UNC, and has taught a variety of classes since 2019, such as Asian Civilizations and United States History. 

    Before coming to UNC she taught in Colorado public schools for 20 years. Even though she loved having the opportunity to work with high schoolers, she knew she wanted to change direction and begin teaching at a college level. 

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    “I truly love teaching high school,” Cook said. “I didn’t want to quit it, but I really believe that when you find your calling you follow it.” 

    She explained that her calling is not only to teach, but educate future teachers. Cook lectures for a Secondary Teacher Education Program course at UNC, and even though it is one class of many, she knows that her students are going to make a big impact

    “It’s a bunch of people who want to go be teachers, and they are the best students because of that,” Cook said. “They are so passionate and want to know what it’s like in a real classroom.” 

    But the passion for learning has somewhat faltered since the pandemic. Cook explained that there is a different type of energy in her classes than there previously was. Attendance is significantly lower, there is a lack of motivation and students are not getting as much out of their time in the classroom as they did pre-pandemic. 

    But teachers are putting more of an effort into their students to make sure they are getting the best education possible. Cook explained that she is working a great deal harder to connect with her students, and she explains that if there isn’t a strong connection, then students are not getting as much out of their education. 

    One way Cook is trying to regain that connection is by keeping her office door open at all times. Students are encouraged to drop by to discuss anything from classwork to personal problems. Cook explained that office hours are just as important as class time and most of her office hours consist of stress management and life coaching. 

    “One time I spent my afternoon with a student helping her figure out a checking account,” Cook said. “It’s just being there for students that makes a difference.” 

    Throughout the semester she makes an effort to check in with students and has them fill out a questionnaire that asks how they are feeling about the class and how they are feeling in general. This allows students to not only let her know if they need additional assistance but also gives them time to reflect on their mental health. She wants students to feel encouraged to reach out if they need help or guidance. 

    Cook has made an effort to not only connect more thoroughly with her students but she also wants to make sure they are still getting a proper education. 

    “She clearly cares about what she’s doing and it’s really encouraging,” UNC senior Sophie McLaughlin said. “She goes above what I expected for a teacher, and you can see that in her lessons.” 

    Cook explains that college is a stressful time even without a pandemic having an impact on daily life, and she hopes that her teaching can affect students in a positive way. Even though times have changed, she wants students to still have a rewarding and fulfilling college experience. 

    “I want it to be like a Wes Anderson film, go slow and read books and smoke Russian cigarettes,” Cook said. “College can be like that. You just have to absorb it.”

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