Constable: Teacher finds joy in converting to 'shed-ucation'
Searching for ways to get the most out of her students during this pandemic, teacher Becky Hieber made a trip to the tool shed. She didn't come back.
"I call it shed-ucation," says Hieber, who teaches her class of fifth-grade students from the relative comfort of a makeshift classroom in the tool shed behind her Mount Prospect home.
"I love the commute," Hieber says. Instead of a 30-minute drive (maybe an hour if it's snowing) to Highland Elementary School in Skokie, Hieber has a 15-second stroll (maybe 30 seconds if it's snowing) to her new digs. But it's more than a timesaver.
A teacher needs a classroom, Hieber says. Carving out space in the home she shares with her husband, Clinton, a teacher at Streamwood High School, and their 4-year-old son, Carson, just wouldn't cut it.
"We both were teaching in the basement," Hieber says of the last months of the 2019-20 school year. Her last day of in-school teaching was March 13. It took another three weeks before the district decided the rest of the year would be spent with online review sessions and videos.
"This year is a regular school year where I am teaching every day," says Hieber, who isn't allowed to teach remotely from her usual classroom. "I said I wanted to be in the shed, so Clinton created a space for me."
They bought a countertop at a home supply store, and Clinton installed that as her desk.
"Clinton's very handy," Hieber says. "He dug a trench and ran electrical and a wire for the internet to the shed. That's basically all I need. It was a place for all of Clinton's tools and storage, but things have been moved around."
The electrical hookup feeds her computer and a lamp. On cold days, it also powers a space heater and an electric blanket.
"I dress rather casually, so I can put on a fleece or a hat," she says. Curtains can be opened to let in some natural light through the windows.
"We put up another curtain to block the tools that are behind me," Hieber says.
She's committed to being a "shed-ucator" for the rest of the winter or until whenever she is allowed to teach in person. She describes her shed space as "cozy." Her students seem to like it.
"It's got its challenges, but the face-to-face interaction is needed to complete their work," Hieber says of her online classes with about 20 kids. "We've never met each other, so they don't trust that I'm the person I say I am. It's difficult online, but I think we're making progress."
Without having to drive to school, she has more time to prepare for classes, more time to spend with her family, and more time to rest. And anything she might need is probably just a quick walk away to her home.
"This is such a great opportunity for me to have my own space to teach," Hieber says. "To have a spot where I can leave my house but still have the comforts of home is perfectly ideal."