Saddleback staff and professors talk about their outlook on COVID-19

Alyssa Gervacio/Lariat

During the spring semester of 2020, the Saddleback administration faced a huge challenge due to COVID-19, but they didn’t give up and managed to work it out to help students.

Maria Mayenzet, a professor in the Television, Radio, and Cinema department, teaches students screen acting, voice-over performance, critical studies and cross-cultural cinema. She has been teaching these classes for almost ten years, but she never imagined that a virus would stop her tenth year of teaching in person.

“When there was talk about COVID, my biggest concern as a professor was my students,” Mayenzet said. “My first thought was how can I help out my students feel that they are part of a creative community in which they can express themselves and what can I do to distract them from reality.”

Mayenzet discusses how it was unusual for her to adapt to teaching certain classes such as screenplay acting through Zoom since her students were no longer together in the same room. Still, when her screen acting class reopened again, even though it was a small group of students and they did have their masks on, she felt joy.

“I feel this experience made me listen more and changed my perspective as an instructor, and instead of rushing to the next assignment, I stayed present with my students as well,” she said.

John Hartman, a program technician and lead mentor of the C.L.A.S.E mentor transfer program, has been at Saddleback for four years in many positions such as matriculation and the counseling office.

“Everyone was on to their day-to-day, and I remember a week before spring break, especially the pandemic, I was giving the high school seniors a tour around campus,” he said. “It felt unreal when the staff told us a week after the event that we were all going online, and I wondered how did this all happen so fast.”

Hartman talks about how it felt unreal for all the schools to shut down due to the virus and shift from in-person classes to online so quickly. Especially for his program, an in-person program, it was a challenging shift since going on campus tours or meeting for group sessions was no longer allowed.

“I did feel comfortable with the online transition, and I enjoyed it, but it was still weird,” Hartman said. “The only difficult part of it is not having any staff or other workers to help each other out.”

He talks about how this pandemic was able to help him share resources for students to help them out during difficult times, but he does miss the interaction with students and staff. He also mentions how this experience made him more open with students who have a tough time and know he is there for anything.

Colin Kohl, a Composition professor at Saddleback, has been teaching for six years. For Kohl, it was a huge transition for him to go from in-person classes to a hundred percent online.

“I had a hard time with Zoom meetings and using Canvas,” Kohl said. “Especially seeing black screens on Zoom, I wonder if they are paying attention, unlike in an actual classroom where I can see my students and check on them.”

He talks about how the preparation for online classes was complex and frustrating because he was not used to technology. He took a course to get the hang of using online mode to benefit himself and help out his students.

“My experience as a professor is that I can communicate with my students to understand what they are going through or if they are having difficulty with any material,” Kohl said.

The staff and faculty at Saddleback changed how they view their job as professionals even though there were negative and positive effects to it all; they didn’t give up on their students and themselves.