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On a hot Friday afternoon in late August, Amia Bridgeford stood outside of the chain-link fence bordering Western Middle School of the Arts, an imposing brick building with arched windows in western Louisville.
It was four days before the beginning of a new school year. Amia, then 21, a first-year teacher, would spend the next few hours passing out workbooks at the school’s drive-thru, where parents could pick up packets with their child’s schedule and coursework.
As the sun bore down, she hoped to see the faces of the students she was now responsible for. Her seventh grade social studies class, like every other in Jefferson County Public Schools, the largest school district in Kentucky, would be online.
Amia had time to share little more than her name as families made their way through the line. In a few cars, she spotted some of her students. It was the last time she would see most of them in person all year.
“I’m really stressed,” she said the night before the school year began.
Generations of educators can remember the nerves that accompanied their first year in the classroom, when inevitable missteps feel like crises and burnout pushes some out of the profession altogether. But this school year, for newcomers like Amia who are launching their teaching careers from cramped apartments, kitchen tables and living rooms, the challenges are even more acute.
Bracey Harris is a staff writer. Before joining The Hechinger Report, she covered politics and education for the Clarion Ledger where she also focused on government accountability for the paper’s investigative...
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