Coronavirus has Completely Turned My Life Upside Down

Hannah Royal shares how working to complete a master’s degree has been turned upside down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Hannah Royal

My name is Hannah Royal, and I am a former foster youth living in Oregon. I am currently 23 years old. I first came into foster care when I was 14 years old and moved from home to home all throughout high school. While I was in foster care, I lived with my grandma, family friends, my aunt and a foster mom who I had never met before going to live with her.

It was a very difficult time for me, as I had to move between two different towns, causing me to have to change schools. Because of this change, I fell behind in math and Spanish classes and struggled to continue to be successful. I graduated high school in 2015 thanks to the love and support from friends and family as well as the determination within myself.

I had great Independent Living Program workers who helped me transition from high school to college. I moved into the dorms at Oregon State University when I was 18 years old, excited to start college. I started out at Oregon State University with a major in biology and minor in chemistry. I loved science and initially came to college to become a veterinarian. Throughout my undergraduate career, however, I realized that I loved educating others and had a passion for teaching. I began my journey to becoming a teacher.

I started working at the Boys and Girls Club to gain experience in working with youth, and eventually became the lead staff for the education program at a local elementary school. I also worked as a study table leader for the 200-level biology series at OSU, where I taught undergraduate students study techniques and biology concepts.

Last year, I graduated from Oregon State University with my Bachelor of Science in biology with a minor in chemistry. I also was accepted into Oregon State University’s Master of Science program in education. I was so excited to be finally in the program I needed to become a high school biology teacher.

Fall term in my graduate program was amazing. I student-taught at a local high school, where I developed and taught lessons for biology classes. I also took my graduate-level courses necessary to complete my master’s degree. During winter term, I began to teach more and more and began to see my relationships with my students grow with mutual trust and respect.

Hannah Royal works and studies in Oregon. Photo courtesy of Hannah Royal.

Toward the end of winter term, I had heard about something that caused growing concern throughout the world, though I had no idea just how big of an impact it would have on me.

I don’t even remember exactly when I first heard about the coronavirus. All I can remember is trying to teach my high school students, and they would make jokes about the coronavirus and its connection to Corona beer. My colleagues even made a few jokes, but I grew more concerned about the virus as more cases of infection came about. More and more people became infected in Seattle, less than a five-hour drive away. All jokes faded once we began to get cases of the coronavirus in the small town where I taught.

Schools in Washington began to close, and my students began to become concerned (or hopeful) that our school would soon be next. I remember reassuring my students that we would still continue to have school when our district decided to shut down schools the very next day. I was in the middle of preparing my students to take a test the following week when our school closed the Friday prior. Relieved for a long weekend, I still was unaware of the extent to which the virus would affect me.

Our schools closed for the entire next week when Oregon’s governor declared all Oregon schools were to remain closed for the remainder of March. Since the last week of March was spring break anyway, I still was not super concerned. I started to become worried that my students would not do well on their test once they returned from such a long break. I didn’t realize that the “break” would become much longer. Days after declaring all Oregon public schools were to remain closed for the remainder of March, the governor declared schools were to remain closed until the end of April. Meanwhile, toilet paper and cleaning supplies disappeared from the shelves in grocery stores. We were running low on toilet paper in my home, and I searched seven different stores in my town for it with absolutely no luck. Frustrated, I started to realize just how seriously the coronavirus would affect me.

I started to worry about what this would mean for my students. How would they learn the material I was supposed to be teaching them? How would I provide equitable instruction for students who didn’t have internet access or devices to access the internet at all? Then I started to worry about my program. I have to teach a certain number of hours in order to receive my teaching license. With schools closed, I would not be able to reach this number of hours.

Reaching out to my professors and supervisors, I questioned how I would be able to continue to stay on track to graduate with my master’s degree with this disruption. So far, I have received little reassurance that I will still be able to obtain my master’s degree and teaching license. I’m scared that I will not be able to graduate this year. If not, I’ll have to take out a loan to pay for the cost of college next year. My supervisors and professors still do not have a plan of action for next term, which is less than a week away. If I don’t get my teaching license this year, I don’t know where I’ll be able to work next year. So far, the coronavirus has completely turned my life upside down.

Hannah Royal is a 23-year-old graduate student at Oregon State University studying to become a high school biology teacher. She was in foster care for six years from the ages of 14-21. She currently is a student teacher for a high school biology class and works as a lab instructor for a biology class at OSU. She enjoys hiking, running, playing volleyball and spending time with friends.

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