E-learning, 4,000 Miles Away

Dwight Teacher Keeps Her Classes After Returning From Spain

By Rachael Reynolds-Soucie rachaelthepaper@gmail.com

When Anne Fritsch logs on to Google Hangouts each morning at 4 a.m. to teach her English classes, she’s seeing tiny faces that are 4,100 miles away. Fritsch, of Dwight, may have left her teaching post in Madrid as the lockdowns in Spain first began, but she continues to share the English lessons four days a week from Dwight thanks to technology. Fritsch, 29, was born and raised in Dwight and graduated from Dwight Township High School in 2008. She graduated from Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington, majoring in English and Education with a minor in Spanish. She taught at Tri-Point and Plano schools before taking a leap of courage to do something she’s had her heart set on for many years: teaching in Spain. “I’ve always wanted to go to Spain and improve my Spanish,” she said. She arrived in Madrid in September 2018 and was hired at the Stella Maris school teaching preschool children and primary students. After a year, she got a job at the Fray Luis de Leon, where she continues to work teaching second through fifth grades and seniors. She’s fallen in love with the students, the culture, the sunny skies and beguiling energy. “The people are warm and friendly,” she said. But then the pandemic hit, and Fritsch knew she had to get home to Dwight. What if they started closing the borders? What if she couldn’t get back home to her parents, Jane and Steve, in an emergency? What if she couldn’t find a flight home? She was lucky. Two weeks after the country locked down, on March 21, she left the apartment she was sharing with several other Americans teaching abroad and boarded an Iberia Airlines flight, nonstop to Chicago. It was a relief but as equally surreal flying nine hours over the Atlantic with a plane half full. Passengers were spaced out; flight attendants wore masks and gloves; and when she arrived at O’Hare, customs was nearly empty. She had to self-quarantine for two weeks. She stayed with her aunt who lives outside Indianapolis. There she had her own bedroom and bathroom. “It was tough,” she said. Fray Luis de Leon was closed until after Easter. That’s when students resumed classes with e-learning. Fritsch said it’s been tough for her and her students because communication teaching ESL is hard enough. She teaches 10 classes a week from Dwight, six on Tuesdays and Wednesday, and four on Thursdays and Fridays. Because of the time change, she starts around 4 a.m. “I like the students. I like the school, so I wanted to continue to help them,” she said. The school had mutual thoughts. “In the beginning I was a little more frustrated,” Fritsch said about the early hours and difficulty teaching online. But she’s gotten into a normal routine now. She also loves seeing her students’ faces when she logs in. She’s missed them and vice versa. “It’s really good to see them,” she said. This summer, she will have to decide whether to find a job here at home, or go back to Madrid to teach for a third year. She would love to, but so much depends on the pandemic. For now, she is grateful she has a job, is earning a living and still able to connect with her students. “I think I’m fortunate,” she said.