As distance learning starts, Maryland teacher returns to empty classroom

Every year, third-grade teacher Mary Piccirilli looks forward to the first day of school. It’s a chance to get her students off to a great start, and it generally kicks off with hugs and high-fives at the door of her classroom at Cooper Lane Elementary.

“But this year, it’s a little bit different,” she said, “because those hugs aren’t going to be in person — they’re going to be virtual.”

And Piccirilli, the 2020 Prince George’s County Teacher of the Year, said it’s still exciting.

Mary Piccirilli is the 2020 Prince George’s County Teacher of the Year. She’ll be distance-teaching from her classroom at Cooper Lane Elementary. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

“Because, at the end of the day, I get to meet 25 new students, and I’m so excited to welcome them into my third-grade classroom,” she said.

She was one of three teachers who decided to provide instruction from inside the Cooper Lane school building.

“That decision for me was making sure that I had all the resources and tools necessary to make the day as smooth and comfortable as possible for the students,” Piccirilli said.

Teachers in Prince George’s County were given the option of teaching from home or going into the buildings to provide instruction from their school classrooms. Piccirilli told reporters she “definitely” feels safe.

“Our school and our county has done a phenomenal job making sure that teachers, students and all the staff are provided a safe setting,” she said.

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Piccirilli — who first spoke to WTOP back in April, when she was teaching remotely — said her return to school for the coming academic year has filled her with excitement.

“My classroom is my safe place,” Piccirilli said. “For me, coming into my classroom is the best fit for me.”

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

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