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Profiles in Resilience: Staying Connected With Students During the Pandemic

Pueblo special education teacher Virginia Mullgrav reflects on COVID-19 challenges.

By Kaley LaQuea

April 29, 2021

Virginia Mullgrav  at desk with mask on

In what has been the hardest year in recent memory, Teach For America Colorado's teachers are showing up stronger than ever to support our state's most underserved students. We're telling their stories — see below for Virginia's and take a look at Denver teacher Piper Mik's reflections on a year of remote learning.   

In the midst of a global pandemic, Virginia Mullgrav (Colorado ‘14) has found unique ways to stay connected with her students. 

It hasn’t always been easy. 

“I was just stressed,” Virginia admits. “I just couldn't figure out how to reach out to some of them, especially my freshmen because they don't know me and I don't know them. It's hard to know them through a computer,” she says. 

Virginia, a high school special education educator at East High School in Pueblo, understands better than most the devastating impacts COVID-19 has had on vulnerable classrooms. In the early weeks of the pandemic, as districts scrambled to accommodate virtual needs, teachers weren’t able to video conference with their students.

“The hardest thing was not being able to see their faces. I would be available for them on the weekends if they needed somebody to talk to. I’d send them messages through Google Class, and it was just a constant ‘How are you doing?’”

Virginia’s background—she’s Hispanic and grew up in a low-income community—helps her connect more deeply with her students and what they might be going through.

“I share a little bit of that with them,” she says. “And so now look at me, it's not, ‘Look at me what I've done.’ No, look at what life has brought me. So it's all about choices.”

Virginia Mullgrav in front of school

Committed to Community

As a military veteran spouse, Virginia’s life is dedicated to service. After teaching preschool in her hometown of El Paso, she  saw significant need among students with disabilities. Her husband was relocated to Colorado in 2014, where she’s been changing the lives of her students ever since.

Virginia commutes daily from her home in Colorado Springs to her school in Pueblo—about an hour drive. Despite thinking about teaching closer to home, she finds herself coming back to her Pueblo students year after year. 

“It's always just this one more year,” she says. “Every year I tell myself the same thing. I just need this class to be done with. I just need to graduate this kid. And the same thing happens every year like, "Okay, I'm done with this one, I'm good."

“It just takes one person,” Virginia says. “It takes one person to believe in them and push them and they'll make it, they'll do it.”

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