Cheyenne Fykes talks with NBC 25

Cheyenne Fykes talks with NBC 25

First-year teacher talks navigating through the pandemic inside the classroom

MOUNT MORRIS TWP., Mich. --- As Mid-Michigan NOW reported during our Back-to-School special, the Great Lakes State has been facing a teacher shortage for 15 year.

The problem has only grown during the pandemic due to retirements.

However, there are first-year teacher like, Cheyenne Fykes, who is looking to make a difference for students.

"We do it all together, together united," Cheyenne Fykes, a first-year French teacher at Hamady Middle School. That’s her motto for navigating through the pandemic, her first year as a certified French teacher at Hamady Middle School.

"I know I wanted to do this, and if I could get through this year with all this pandemic than anything else is going to seem like a breeze," said Fykes.

Fykes a Flint native, grew up in the area before moving to her mother’s home country France where she graduated high school.

Now at 25-years-old she’s working at her dad’s alma mater, hoping to enrich the lives of Westwood Heights Schools students.

"The first thing they say is I live in Flint and I'm never going to use French. Well the first thing I say is my dad probably thought that too now all three of his children speak French, so I basically just want to expand their horizons."

According to the Michigan Public School Employees' Retirement System, early teacher retirements are up 44 percent since August 2020.

While some are walking away from the profession Fykes is just getting started.

"If I threw in the towel when everybody else threw in the towel well we've got a pile of towels and nobody to fold them," said Fykes.

After falling in love with teaching just before the pandemic while working as a sub, she then chose to pursue her certification which came with its own struggles.

"You have to teach a class for about a year as you are doing your studies, so I had to lean how to teach with French during the pandemic and online distanced learning."

Fully vaccinated against Covid, Fykes says she’s taking extra steps to protect her and her students by providing extra PPE. Despite the obstacles with Covid restrictions, Fykes says other than social distancing with a large class.

Her biggest challenge while teaching a foreign language to young students is working around lack of connection and communication brought on by wearing masks.

"Learning a language is all about speaking to one another seeing context with facial expressions, gestures, seeing the culture right in front of you," said Fykes.