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Lessons of the New Normal

We’ve published many “back to school” issues, but the coming school year is, once again, anything but normal.

by Peoria Magazine |

We’ve published many “back to school” issues, but the coming school year is, once again, anything but normal. “Reflections On the Past Year” is not just the title of the latest column from Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman—it was a guiding theme of this issue.

“The pandemic served to remind everyone in society just how inextricably linked our lives are with the institution of P-12 education,” writes Dean Cantù, who chairs the Department of Teacher Education at Bradley University. “Perhaps the greatest takeaway… is the realization that we will not be returning to ‘normal.’ At a minimum, there will be a ‘new normal’ that incorporates what we have learned during the pandemic.”

What does that “new normal” look like? Even at the tail end of summer, questions and concerns remain about the coming school year. Will we be able to gather in groups? With or without masks? Will we be treated differently based on our vaccination status? As Dr. Cantù notes, we have “an opportunity for innovation, guided by the lessons teachers and administrators have learned over the course of the past year and a half.” Certainly the still-shifting landscape of Covid—and the accompanying exhaustion we all feel—does not make it easy.

One obvious takeaway is the accelerated need for technology in education… and in all areas of life. These changes are not going away, and the non-tech-savvy are sure to be frustrated. I was reminded of this at a recent trip to the ballpark, which involved electronic-only tickets and access to food and drink via app. I learned of one recent college graduate who started his career during the pandemic and has never met any of his colleagues in person. His story is not an isolated one.

Despite all of these uncertainties, a good education has never been more important. We are grateful to the teachers and administrators who are shouldering the burdens of another uncertain year, knowing that any solution is sure to displease someone.

This month, we open nominations for the next class of 40 Leaders Under Forty. Do you know a young professional who has excelled in community leadership over the past year? Visit peoriamagazines.com/40-leaders and nominate them today. Nominations close on Friday, September 3.

Finally, mark your calendar for Tuesday, August 24, at 4:00pm. We will be recognizing this year’s 40 Leaders Alumnus of the Year on Facebook Live—you won’t want to miss it! PM

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