Behrends in the Lab

With the resignation of AHS teacher Valerie Jaehrling due to COVID concerns, Michelle Behrends took over monitoring physics and chemistry online classes.


Ariel Clark

Michelle Behrends sits in the front of the room and watches over her students, making sure they stay on track with their courses.While she was usually found substitute teaching for various absent teachers, Behrends was offered the position to be a semester-long substitute until the school can find an ample replacement teacher. She took the offer in order to help out the school and to stay safe during the pandemic.

Ariel Clark, Editor

“Traditionally as a teacher you don’t proctor classrooms, you teach,” said substitute teacher Michelle Behrends. Behrends took control of the chemistry and physics classes after the previous teacher resigned before the start of school. Though the classes are all online, Behrends proctors the class and ensures everyone stays on-track and follows the rules. “I feel fortunate to be able to have the opportunity,” said Behrends, who finds it “comforting” that she doesn’t have to switch between classrooms during the pandemic.  

Even though her new position helps in limiting exposure, Behrends still misses the feeling of teaching class and having a “different day, new job” experience. Due to the courses being online, she has nothing to teach or present to the classes herself “which is weird because I’m an educator.” She also finds it hard, due to her lack of a chemistry background, when students are struggling and have questions yet she is unable to answer them. “I wish I could answer questions and be more helpful for students,” said Behrends.

I wish I could answer questions and be more helpful for students”

— Michelle Behrends

Behrends feels that students are more inclined to ‘cheat’ due to the need to finish their current assignment in order to progress. With the online nature of the courses, students seem to just google “how to answer the problem to move on.” Meanwhile, students that fall behind in their work and don’t meet the weekly goals are “penalized just like in a normal class.” Students who are 10 or more assignments behind the goal for their class get it docked off of their current percentage. For example, a student who is 20 units behind and has an 80% in the class will drop down to a 60% until they make it back up.

Despite the struggles, Behrends is glad for the opportunity to get to know individual students better. “I enjoy being with juniors and seniors at the high school and just actually building some relationships with students that I would not have otherwise,” Behrends said. Since her kids are no longer a part of the high school, she hasn’t been able to form deeper bonds with students before this position. Even though she misses students from the other schools, Behrends said, “I’ve enjoyed my time at the high school.”

Meanwhile, former science teacher Valerie Jaehrling has accepted a new teaching job at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines.