Back to school: Teachers reflect on the first days and the year ahead

As a new school year begins, teachers are welcoming students back to the classroom under a renewed Covid threat, making up for lost instructional time and providing students the emotional and academic support they need to recover from the turmoil of the past 17 months.

EdSource’s Anne Vasquez and John Fensterwald checked in with some of California’s leading teachers about how the pandemic has changed their perspective on teaching and schools, how the new school year is going so far and how teachers, students and parents can prepare for the year ahead.

Teachers discussed their biggest challenges:

  • How has their approach to teaching changed since the start of the pandemic?
  • How are students doing socially and emotionally?
  • How are teachers assessing students’ readiness and evaluating the needs for closing learning gaps that widened during the pandemic?

Read more about this roundtable.


Larry Ferlazzo

English and social studies teacher at Luther Burbank High in Sacramento

Larry Ferlazzo is an English and social studies teacher at Luther Burbank High in Sacramento, a columnist with Education Week, and the author or editor of 12 books, including Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers To Classroom Challenges.

Patricia Carlos

National board certified teacher and state reviewer for language arts curriculum

Patricia Carlos is a National Board Certified Teacher with 20 years of experience at the elementary school level. In 2015, she served as a State Reviewer for the adoption of the California Language Arts curriculum. Patricia has a M.A. Educational Administration degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills, as well as a Multiple Subject teaching credential with a BCLAD emphasis and a B.A. in Liberal Studies.

Gwendolyn Delgado

Intervention Coordinator, William S Hart Union High School District

Gwendolyn Delgado is a bilingual 6-12 educator at La Mesa Junior High School. She has more than a decade of experience working with at-risk student populations and English learners. She has served as a member of EdSource’s Teacher Advisory Committee and is a Teach Plus California Policy Fellow. She holds a Ph.D in education from the University of Southern California.

Jose Rivas

High school engineering and electronics teacher at Lennox Math

Jose Rivas left the engineering world to pursue a career in education. After teaching high school physics for two years in Los Angeles, he moved back to his home town of Lennox, California, where he teaches physics and engineering to grades 10–12 at Lennox Mathematics, Science, and Technology Academy, a charter high school. His minds-on approach to phenomenon-based instruction has been nationally recognized and he has received several awards including the Presidential Award for Science Teaching, the Northrop Grumman Foundation Excellence in Engineering Education Award and the NSTA Shell Science Teaching Award.

His students have built 16-foot solar-electric boats and competed with them in the annual Solar Cup in Temecula, California; studied terminal velocity through indoor skydiving; explored the physics of martial arts; developed innovative solutions for the Exploravision competition that have been nationally recognized and engineered beetle bots that could sense their environment. Jose hopes his inventive approach to teaching helps students appreciate the beauty of science, and apply it to their own lives. (It seems to be working, as many of his graduates have pursued STEM careers.)Jose graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in education. He is currently a TeachPlus policy fellow and is also an EL Change Agent through TeachPlus.  Jose regularly contributes to Science Friday through interviews on the program and by designing educational resources.  He is also an advisory board member for Infiniscope where he engages and supports adaptive virtual learning programs through NASA and ASU.

Mark St. John

Founder and president of Inverness Institute

Mark St. John is the founder and president of the Inverness Institute, an organization devoted to improving the improvement of education. For far too many years now, Mark has been studying efforts to improve education —  sometimes as an evaluator, sometimes as a researcher, and more often now, as an advisor. Through the Teacher Consultant Response network, Mark and his colleagues have been  working to make the voices of leading teachers more prominent and central in the decision making of educational leaders, policymakers and philanthropists

John Fensterwald

Panel moderator; Editor-At-Large, EdSource

John joined EdSource in 2012. For three years before that, he was founder and editor of the “The Educated Guess” website, a source of California education policy reporting, sponsored by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. For the preceding 11 years, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997. His wife is a retired teacher, and their daughter is a neurology resident at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.

Anne Vasquez

Panel moderator; Executive Director, EdSource

Anne Vasquez took the helm as EdSource’s Executive Director in May 2021. Previously, she served as Director of Content and Strategic Initiatives at EdSource. In that role, she helped shape editorial strategy, grow partnerships and expand the organization’s footprint throughout California. Prior to joining EdSource, Anne was an executive at Tribune Publishing, where she most recently served as Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Chief Digital Officer. She previously was the Managing Editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Anne began her career at The Miami Herald and the San Jose Mercury News, where she was an education reporter and later an editor.