The Pantagraph for more than a year has been chronicling the experiences of six area residents as they navigate the challenges of COVD-19 and its aftermath.
A seven-mile bike ride with his oldest daughter has become the standard start to Paul Ritter’s morning, but afterward, the days fill up quickly.
“Like insanely full, and it drives my wife nuts,” said the Pontiac Township High School science teacher.
Since the school year ended, many of Ritter’s students have continued projects that stemmed from his classes, including House Bill 3928 which would create a conservation task force to protect Illinois’ land and water. The bill, written by his students, passed in the General Assembly and is heading for the governor's desk.
“My day, my year never stops just because the bell rang,” he said. “Most of my class is designed by purpose to not be centered around four walls. The fact that we have kids that are still doing these programs even after they’ve graduated, I’m excited.”
Classwork became more flexible through the COVID-19 pandemic, and some of those lessons will likely be more permanent changes.
"We’ve learned so much. I myself have learned many many things on how to do things in a remote or hybrid model that I am applying now every day and in my classroom even if we’re full time. I think that’s exciting for me,” Ritter said.
Among the new methods was co-teaching general science classes with fellow PTHS teacher Cal Hackler, because “we found it easier to really make a difference with the kids.”
Now that Illinois is set to reopen, Ritter said he believes in the science and the data used to make this decision.
“I’m happy that I’m not going to have to wear a mask, but at the same time, would I wear a mask again? Sure I would if they told me that the data says we need to do it again because what is it about? It’s about the greater good for not only ourselves, but humanity, and that’s important to understand,” he said.
He and his wife, Jodee, didn’t see any of their parents for a year, but since being vaccinated, they’re excited to make up for lost time.
“Now we feel comfortable to be able to get together with them to cook. We’re still careful but at the same time, smoking a little barbecue does wonders for the soul,” he said. “To be able to do that is very big.”