Conor McDonald

6:45 a.m.: 5th and 6th grade teacher Conor McDonald, EDU '18, arrives at St. Ephrem School in Bensalem, Pennsylvania and begins making copies, going over lessons and preparing for the day before his students arrive.

8:05 a.m.: Classes start.

2:45 p.m.: Students leave the building and McDonald heads to the library. There, he helps run St. Ephrem's after school program.

5:30 p.m.: McDonald goes home and catches up on work.

8:30 p.m.: McDonald prepares his lunch and puts his clothes together for the next day of school.

This was what McDonald's average day looked like before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States.

On March 13, Archdiocesan spokesman Kenneth Gavin announced that "all high schools, parish and regional elementary schools, schools of special education, PREP (Parish Religious Education Programs) and early learning centers in the five-county Archdiocese" will be closed through March 27. This includes St. Ephrem School where McDonald teaches.

McDonald quickly became a leader to his students during this unprecedented time.

Being a leader comes second nature to McDonald. During his time at Temple University as a secondary education student, he was a section leader in the Temple University Marching Band, was fraternity chapter president of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and was active in Hootathon and Phi Alpha Theta. 

Because of the circumstances around COVID-19, McDonald is now teaching his students online. 

"Since my school is adjusting to the new norm, as of right now, I post all of my assignments online three times a week that they need to get done over the course of that week. All work needs to be emailed to me or submitted on Google Classroom for credit."

While there are some obvious challenges to the shift to online learning, McDonald is grateful for his upbringing around technology and sees the benefits of it in his classroom. The growing desire for STEM-education in the classroom pushed him to attain a Google Educator certification which has made his transition to online teaching a lot easier. 

Technology does not infringe on the relationship between McDonald and his students. They remain a guiding light during this challenging time. 

[My students] are some of the most wonderful, thoughtful, caring individuals I've ever met. They know that I give it my all and I expect the same from them. It's a very communal feel that I've worked hard to implement throughout the course of the year. 

As other educators are pivoting to online teaching, McDonald advises his fellow peers to familiarize themselves with online learning tools like Kahoot, Gimkit and Google Classroom. Many of these tools are offering premium services for free in response to the pandemic. He also embraces the positive benefits of podcasts in the classroom.

"Podcasts are becoming the new way most of us absorb information and if I can introduce this way of learning during this unfortunate time, I'm able to kill two birds with one stone!"

McDonald also encourages patience during these uncharted times. Many students might not be comfortable with remote or digital learning and teachers are trying their best to make it a workable situation for everyone.

Additionally, McDonald reminds his peers that many students' parents are considered essential employees and must continue to report to work every day. This may lead to increased anxiety over the health and safety of their family. Furthermore, older students might be the only ones in the home who are looking after younger siblings if there is no adult around.

The last thing that these students want to be worrying about is the classwork assignments that school sent home and are due by tomorrow. I try to think in a human sense about what our students are going through personally, emotionally, physically and spiritually during this time and the last thing that I, as a teacher, want to do is to add any more burden to their plate.

While it is unknown when McDonald will return to his classroom at St. Ephrem School, it is evident that McDonald will do everything he can to continue educating his students and making an impact.

If you are an educator who has been impacted by COVID-19, we encourage you to share your story by emailing Like McDonald, Temple educators have grit and passion. While this is a time of uncertainty, Temple educators will continue to demonstrate Temple University's motto, "Perseverance Conquers."