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PHILADELPHIA — At first, Marie Wilkins-Walker was just happy to be back in a classroom. Wilkins-Walker teaches career and technical education at West Philadelphia High School, where she has worked for a decade. Her classes focus on computer systems networking; students earn certificates for jobs in fields like IT while also providing tech support to the high school.

Much as she loves technology, Wilkins-Walker said, “I have never wanted to be an online teacher.”

Last school year she taught to a Chromebook, filled with dark squares where kids’ faces ought to have been. “I often spent the evenings wondering whether I am showing up with my best,” recalled Wilkins-Walker, who sometimes worked alongside her 12-year-old grandson who’d come to live with her during the pandemic. “I think my answer was ‘no’ most of the time.”