WARREN, Mich. – With the school building closed and teaching moved from the classroom to virtual reality, De La Salle Collegiate teachers and students are learning to use technologies in a whole new way.
Foreign language teacher Adriana Vidican is no stranger to adaptation – or wearing a mask, which is the new normal during this coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.
Trained as a teacher in Romania, she and her husband John fled to the United States in 1992, seeking political asylum.
“We were living in fear,” Vidican said. “You didn’t know if your school colleagues were informants to the dictatorship’s secret service. I had to be careful when talking to students because they were prodded at home to tell what they heard from teachers. You had to wear a ‘mask’ in public to hide what you really felt about the oppressive regime. The only wish you had was to survive and to protect your family. You could not trust anyone, not even your friends. There were horrible feelings of mistrust and fear.”
She said the decision to flee came down to life or death.
“We believed our lives were in danger,” Vidican said.
When the couple escaped, their daughters, then ages 13 and 6, stayed behind with Vidican’s parents.
“Only my father knew we were leaving,” she said. They kept in touch with letters in those pre-technology days.
John Vidican, an engineer, found employment right away. But for Adriana, the job market was much harder. While working on certification for teaching, she worked service jobs in restaurants, on a factory assembly line, and did data entry at a business.
In 1997, the family was reunited in America. The Vidicans had not seen their children for five years. Each summer Vidican enjoys returning to Europe to spend with her mom, who still lives in Romania’s Transylvanian region.
Vidican became a long-term substitute in Warren public schools in the late 1990s and joined De La Salle’s staff in 2001.
“I love teaching,” Vidican said. “When I started in 2001, I didn’t think I’d stay more than a year. I wasn’t sure if I could connect. But I am in love with the school.”
Now, distance learning has Vidican working with two computers each school day. She uses one for messages from students, and the other for lesson plans, classwork, and homework.
“In class, I gave directions verbally, and checked homework informally,” she said. “I can highlight, make suggestions, and make all kinds of notes.”
Since speaking is integral to foreign language teaching, she is also listening to student recordings, as well as checking homework.
Vidican said that the textbook does have an online program with videos.
“I am doing more than I would in class,” she said, “but the videos help students hear the correct pronunciation.”
She is also adding videos of herself to the teaching menu.
“I tried it with a colleague, and now I have more confidence,” she said. “Gradually, I’m getting there. It is a lot of work to prepare.”
During the pandemic, John Vidican is also working from home. She worries about their daughters, both in the healthcare industry. One is a dentist, and the other a pharmacist.
“She was working at a pharmacy, and they had no masks,” Vidican said. “It is scary.”