Teachers transition back in from maternity leave

October 13, 2016 — by Harshini Ramaswamy and Jay Kim

Teachers talk about their maternity leaves

Before having her 8-month-old son Gavin, AP Chemistry teacher Kathy Nakamatsu sometimes used to come to school on weekends to do grading. The birth of her son, though, means she is now living an entirely different kind of life, one that doesn’t include grading at school on weekends.

Though the school’s staff members have years of experience around children of multiple ages, balancing raising young children and teaching students is a challenge on an entirely different level. The transition from the daily care of their young children to sitting behind a desk can be tough. English teacher Kelly Wissolik took the 2015-16 year off for maternity leave when she had her second daughter Avery.  

“It’s really hard because you’re doing nursery rhymes with your kids at home and then at school, you're doing serious work with novels, literary devices, vocabulary terms,” said Wissolik. “It’s different to talk to a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old versus high school students.”

For Nakamatsu, the most difficult part of returning to school has been getting used to the systemic issues, such as remembering passwords and uploading files on Canvas. Grading also takes longer now, since her son Gavin occupies so much of her time.

Back at SHS, Nakamatsu described her transition from full-time parenting to teaching similar to that of riding a bicycle.

“You may not do it for years, so when you first get on the bike, you're wobbly and you may fall a couple times,” Nakamatsu said. “But eventually you remember what to do and it goes smoothly.”

Last school year, Nakamatsu took the second semester off when her son was born and became a part-time teacher starting this year, only teaching three periods. She believes that this arrangement benefits both her students and her family.

“I am happy to be a working mother and to have the option to teach part-time,” Nakamatsu said. “I was not meant to be a stay-at-home mom, but also knew I couldn't work full-time and have the energy to be a good mom to Gavin.”

For attendance secretary Mandy Armes, also a recently new mother to twin boys Jameson and Lincoln, she has been constantly preoccupied with  her children’s welfare and has trouble balancing the responsibilities of motherhood and work.

“Now that they’re in daycare I feel like they’re always sick,” Armes said. “My husband and I would have to switch off and leave early from work to take them to the doctor, or one of us would have to stay home.”

By taking most of last school year off, Armes feels she deepened her relationship with her twins.

Both Armes and Wissolik are grateful for the district’s generous policies toward maternity leave.

“It was great because I was with her all year and when I came back, I was fresh and ready to start teaching again,” Wissolik said. “I’m glad the school and district allows that time, so that way I can spend quality time with my kids and be excited to start a new school year.”

Psychology and AP Government/Economics teacher Hana Chen also was excited to return to school in January 2016 after her semester-long leave during the 2015-16 school year for the birth of her daughter Madeline.

“I was excited to be back because I love my job and I love being a working mom,” Chen said. “My first day of school was a little weird though because everybody else knew each other but I didn’t know anyone, and it wasn’t anyone else’s first day.”

A mother of two, Chen said that having young children at daycare has forced her to change the way she goes through her day.

“Working full time has definitely made me more purposeful in time management,” Chen said. “I use every second of the day that I can to make sure I can fulfill obligations at school and at home.”

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