Dear Linda: Going back to school

Dear Linda,

School starts soon and, while I am looking forward to it, I am extremely nervous and stressed. How do I plan for the upcoming year if I am not sure what is going to happen?
Sara from New York

Dear Sara,

Take a few minutes to breathe and know you are not alone. The start of the school year will be different, but different can be good. It brings on creativity and excitement. And, remember, we are much stronger in our abilities to teach in unfamiliar environments from our COVID closure experiences.

Build relationships.

Prioritize building the relationship with your students. Focus on getting to know each other. What are their career goals? If you have a general idea of how you will conduct your lessons, then share that with them. Offer fun activities, such as scavenger hunts or silly hat days. You might build mindful meditation into your curriculum, to encourage healthy practices for the school year.

Start slow but make the content meaningful.

Whether you are teaching in person, virtually or navigating a hybrid approach, one thing is the same. You have content toto teach. Begin slow. Present opportunities for reflection, such as journaling. Invite a speaker to address your virtual class.

Plan activities that can be done in school and at home. I teach health science/ certified nursing assistant courses, so I can send gloves and other personal protective equipment home for students to practice. Determining how to adapt hands-on learning materials for home use may be tricky, but please reach out to your professional groups, or to me. I can help you.

ACTE has developed an excellent resource of materials and teaching ideas. See the COVID resources page. Also, please plan to attend ACTE’s CareerTech Virtual VISION, where you can network with teachers virtually and gain even more information to help.

Focus on the positive. Try to think more about innovative ways you can connect with students, and less about the way you did it in the past. The creative ideas will flow. If you get stuck, reach out to me.

Design creative work-based learning experiences.

You may not be able to go anywhere, but you can still reach out to local employers and industry partners. I am certain that they would be willing to connect with your classes virtually. For example:

  • An organ donation group in my area will provide education and certification for our students.
  • Human resources professionals might conduct mock interviews or give short lessons on resume building.

Ask! The worst thing they could say is no. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised. I am amazed at the support within my own community.


It is important to breathe and try to stay calm. When we tense up, we cannot think well. Try these easy breathing exercises.

Take a day-by-day approach. I know this was hard for me because I am a planner. Set small goals to keep a clear mind and leave room for all the wonderful ideas you will have.

Keep me posted on how things are going; contact me at any time.

With love and gratitude,

Linda Romano


Click here to submit your questions. Linda will have the answers.

Linda Romano is vice president of ACTE’s Health Science Education Division and a health science/nurse aide educator for Newburgh Enlarged City School District, where she has been a CTE teacher since 2006. In 2018, Romano was named ACTE’s Teacher of the Year. She also serves as president of the New York Health Science Educator Association.

Romano is an active registered nurse and serves in several volunteer capacities for her state of New York and within the local Newburgh Community/ Newburgh Armory Unity Center. In addition to mentoring new teachers, Linda Romano developed and leads a program called Scholars in Scrubs, which provides education, health and wellness, and opportunities for young people (pre-K to high school) and their parents/grandparents.

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