A New Teacher with New Challenges: Lesley Watkins Takes on Virtual CCHS


Photo courtesy of Lesley Watkins

Lesley Watkins poses for the camera.

Kaylee Powell, Staff Writer

Lesley Watkins is one among a slew of new teachers entering Chamblee Charter High School. This year has already proved to be difficult for returning students and staff, and this is no different for our newest teachers. 

Now in her tenth year as a teacher, Watkins came to the profession from the world of finance. As a family-driven woman, she decided to leave her previous job and become a teacher, so that she could spend more time with her family. 

“I have three kids,” said Watkins. “I was a single mom and wanted [a job] where I’d be home with them more, but I had always loved math.”

Watkins’ path was very unconventional in comparison to many other teachers at our school. As opposed to going back to college to become a teacher, she went through DeKalb’s Teacher Alternative Preparation program. At the completion of the program, she took the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators exam to receive her certification and has been with DeKalb ever since. 

With ten years of experience under her belt, Watkins is taking this year in stride. She has faced many difficulties as a teacher, and 2020 simply carries a few more challenges.  

“I think every year has its difficulties. This is just a totally different set of difficulties,” said Watkins. “The thing that’s different about this year though is it’s [hard] to start a new school because I don’t know everyone that I can go to [in order to] ask questions as the new teacher.”

Watkins’ main difficulty of being a new teacher during a pandemic is only amplified by the fact that her students are freshmen. Watkins teaches Accelerated Coordinate Algebra/Analytic Geometry A as well as Coordinate Algebra, and this is her students’ first introduction to the rapid pace of high school math. With no face-to-face preparation, she is missing out on key moments and connections with the students to really get the ball rolling. 

“I love the energy in the classroom. I like feeling like I’m making a difference. I love the moments when I’m teaching kids who have struggled with math and they’re like, ‘Wow! I get it!’ It’s just very satisfying in that regard,” said Watkins. “I also like the creativity part of it: I can do my classroom however I want and come up with the different projects and activities in the classroom. It’s challenging but fun.” 

Watkins is using Google Classroom and Flipgrid to her advantage, but these apps aren’t all too helpful when she can’t tell if her students are fully engaged. The lack of in-person communication is proving to be a struggle for her. 

“Some of the kids aren’t asking questions, so I sit there and have a one-way conversation, instead of a two-way conversation,” Watkins said.  “I know there are a lot of students sitting there not asking questions and it makes me wonder [if they are] really understanding enough to not ask questions or [if they are] not asking questions and commenting because they’re off doing something else, or [if they are] embarrassed to ask a question. I feel like they need more.” 

Watkins usually sees an entirely different level of participation.

“When I’m in the classroom, I’m getting 100 questions throughout the day and I’m not getting that online, and I don’t think that magically, everyone became math experts,” said Watkins. “I think they’re afraid to ask the questions that they need. […] They may not know how because it’s online and it’s confusing, and it’s just not as personal as it can be.”

It’s not all bad though. Online classes have given students the opportunity to make it to class even when they are sick and to have more time to work on the lessons they are struggling with. 

 “The kids are attending and really are trying. I have been pleasantly surprised by the efforts the students are putting into the classes. They’re here on time and they’re doing the work,”  said Watkins.

Outside of school, Watkins enjoys walking her dog, spending time with her family, and playing tennis. Just like teaching, tennis is another activity in Watkins’ life that has been affected by COVID-19. This year could have been the year where she started to take on a coaching role to interact more with her students. 

“At some point, I would have loved to [coach tennis].” Watkins said. “My youngest child is a senior in high school, so I haven’t wanted to do many after school activities because of the time commitments, but now that she’s graduating,  I think it would be a fun activity to  get involved in.” 

All in all, virtual school has proven to be an experience for Watkins, but with her new online techniques and her dedication to involve her students, Watkins and her class are sure to prevail.