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Home News Students eager for a return to normal as 2022-23 school year begins

Students eager for a return to normal as 2022-23 school year begins

Students eager for a return to normal as 2022-23 school year begins
St. Mary High School student leadership council co-presidents Alex De Padua (left) and Rylee McKay (right) pose for a photo in front of St. Mary High School. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Even though Rylee McKay has been through 12 ‘first days of school’, this one still feels a little weird.

McKay, the co-president of the St. Mary High School student leadership council, was back in class for the first time on Friday with her fellow Grade 12 students. Being the oldest group in the school is something she’s looked forward to, but she admits it’s also a little …. strange.

“All the Grade 12s have been saying, ‘we see the Grade 9s. Were we really that small?’” McKay says with a laugh. “Then we also look at ourselves and we’re like, ‘the Grade 12s when we were in Grade 9, they were so cool, and in our minds we’re like, no. We’re not as cool as they were.”

While being cool is great, McKay and her fellow Grade 12 students are hoping for something more: a normal year.

This year’s crop of high school seniors was in Grade 9 when COVID-19 hit. Since then, they’ve watched three different Grade 12 classes go through restrictions that limited student interaction and extracurricular activities. As a player on the St. Mary High School basketball and volleyball teams, McKay hopes this year they won’t have to contend with those restrictions.

“This is first year since Grade 9 where there’s the potential for a normal year because we’ve been so used to restrictions and masks,” she says. “Even seeing people’s faces, it’s kind of (like), whoa.”

McKay’s co-president on the SLC, Alex De Padua, also hopes for a normal year. Like many students, he’s looking forward to spending one last year with his friends before heading off to university.

He also says it feels strange being one year away from graduation.

“It’s exciting, but (I’m) also nervous as well—nervous for what’s to come in the future,” he says.

It may be the first day of school, but De Padua already has his eye on next September, when he plans to pursue some kind of post-secondary education. So far, he’s not sure what he wants to study, but while the challenge of figuring things out is a bit daunting, he’s also looking forward to it.

“I’ll have to be a lot more independent,” he says. “A lot of things will be up to me. It won’t be up to my teachers or family or even friends or anything to try and help me figure out what I want to do.”

Until then, both students hope the current SLC can make the next school year a memorable one. McKay said previous SLCs did a good job of bringing hope to the student body, and she credits staff members and principal Marc Phaneuf to making the last two school years as enjoyable as possible, even with restrictions in place.

She’s hoping the last year can be a good one.

“We’re definitely anxious because there’s university, (and) the future,” she says. “(We’re) kind of getting older. There’s that vibe, you could say, but I think it’s mainly an excited feeling for our last year and going out with a bang.”

Students aren’t the only people making their return to the classroom on Friday. Interns like Erin Dyck at Osborne Public School also hit a milestone, spending their first day in class as a teacher.

For Dyck, being back in school was great.

“For me it’s excitement,” she says. “I’m excited to have the students back in the classroom, get to meet them, get to know their personalities and who they are as individuals, and just excited to get to know how I’m going to be a part of a classroom that’s going to support them.”

Dyck spent two decades as an early childhood educator before moving on to teaching. She’s always had a passion for teaching children, but wanted a different challenge.

“The next step was going back to school and getting into a classroom,” says Dyck, who’s interning as a Grade 5 and 6 teacher at Osborne. “I’m passionate about learning, and I’m just hoping to instill that passion within my students in the classroom.”

Healthcare workers drew most of the headlines as burnout and fatigue hit nurses, doctors, and emergency services workers during COVID-19. However, teachers struggled as well.

In 2019, 41 per cent of teachers reported thoughts of quitting due to burnout. But by November 2020, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation was sounding the alarm that teachers were being asked to do too much, and their efforts were not sustainable long term.

Dyck is eager to be back in the classroom this year, and hopes parents and residents will remember the efforts of those who have been here before her.

“They do so much for the children and the students in their school. They go above and beyond, and they’re just really there to support the children and give them a safe environment to learn and help them become the best they possibly can.”