The Effect of Covid-19 On Mr. Birkenfeld

How the Pandemic Has Affected Mr. Birkenfeld Professionally and Personally


Olivia Miller

Mr. Birkenfeld in his classroom at CKHS.

by Olivia Miller, Editor-in-Chief

Covid-19 has changed the world as we know it. Millions of people have become unemployed, schools have shut down, and lives have been lost. However, when looking at intangibly large numbers, it can be easy to forget that they represent actual people. 

Paul Birkenfeld, who teaches chemistry at all levels and has worked at Central Kitsap High School for 25 years, is one of those people. He had to adapt quickly to new circumstances at work and in his personal life due to the pandemic.

“Doing virtual learning, [has caused] my job…[to] become incredibly challenging,” Birkenfeld said.“It almost feels like I’m going back to my early first few years of teaching where I’m having to…create tools and activities for my students that will help them succeed.” 

Things such as notes and lectures that Birkenfeld once took for granted are now an everyday challenge. 

Furthermore, since Birkenfeld exclusively teaches chemistry, creating and teaching labs is now a monumental task. 

“I’ve created my first video lab, […] and I have broken it down into sets of small steps, where I make a video of myself doing the lab,” he said. “I told my wife I needed a Go Pro in order to video these labs, so she let me go out and get a Go Pro. And so I make two to three minute videos…and then students will watch those as if they’re carrying out the labs themselves. It’s definitely not as good as lighting a Bunsen burner yourself and heating a crucible yourself or building a graduated cylinder, but until it gets back to the new normal, which will be our post-Covid times, it’s the best way to do it.”

Not only has the coronavirus affected Birkenfeld in the workplace, but it has also had an impact on his personal life. He has had limited contact with both his parents, his wife’s parents, and his children. 

“[The pandemic] has limited our contact with our family, both my immediate family, my son and daughter and my extended family, my parents and my in-laws and my siblings,” Birkenfeld said.

Despite these challenges, Birkenfeld continues to maintain a positive attitude about the future. 

“I think our district needs to be commended on kind of slowly bringing it back, instead of jumping off in the deep end and crossing our fingers and hoping for the best,” he said. “Our teachers, my colleagues, and our students are too important to me and to each of us that to just jump in headfirst, so I applaud the administration of the district for slowly bringing students back and testing it, and if it doesn’t work out or if we see a spike, then we go back we take some steps backwards and do what we need to do with our kids.”

Furthermore, he continuously encourages students to try and make the best of the situation, but still acknowledges the many challenges we are all facing. 

“I just think it’s really important for students to realize that we all don’t have certain skills,” Birkenfeld stated. “And we all have different levels of  those skills, but it’s important to keep their head up, stay positive and keep moving forward. That’s one thing and that the second thing is, is really and truly to reach out to teachers, we love what we do. We love being here to support students. […] And be nice to your teachers, show grace and understanding to your teachers too because some of us, like myself, are working through this digital environment for the first time, and we’re in this together, so grace and understanding between us is really important.”

Overall, he truly believes that communication and understanding is the thing that is going to get students and teachers through remote learning.