School, work, and Sanity as an Essential Worker During a Pandemic

Young female student nurse in scrubs poses with an iced coffee
Annie Jensen, student nurse and NU Scholar

Annie Jensen, BSN student

NU Scholar, Oct 2019 Cohort, Fresno Region



If there is anything I’ve learned from taking 100’s of yoga classes, it’s that balance can make or break your success. As an essential worker in this pandemic, my stress level has increased due to the higher demand for health care workers along with the stress of becoming an online learner. I would not have been able to survive this unconventional time without keeping a steady balance between my school, work, and activities.

Taking Charge of my Education

A counselor once told me the only person in charge of my education was me. Little did I know this would take on a whole new meaning in 2020. Not being able to physically be at school in the last six months has forced me to take my accountability for my education to a new level. Although it has been more difficult, finding activities to do as a study tool has helped me learn the information faster and doubles as a form of entertainment while in quarantine. For example, when I’m memorizing flash cards, every flash card I get wrong I do 5 jumping jacks. This activity encourages me to get some exercise in while learning the information. And we actually learn and retain information better when we’re physically active!

Work-Life Balance

Young white woman in nursing scrubs, with badge, surgical mask, eye mask
Masks can be scary for little kids, especially in a healthcare setting. A goofy thumbs-up is a smile that everyone can share.

As a self-diagnosed workaholic, keeping a work-life balance is easier said than done – but acknowledging this in myself is the first step. I feel so incredibly blessed to be an essential worker during this time and having the opportunity to still work full time. At the same time, balancing work and school has always been difficult for me, and has been increasingly more difficult with the high demand for healthcare workers right now. I know many individuals are, instead, having to take a step back from work because of the situation at hand. Nonetheless whether you’re not working enough or are putting in overtime, finding a good balance is always important. In the past few months I’ve realized I need to calm my mind before going to bed. One thing that has helped me is getting back into guided meditation for 10 minutes at the end of my night. If you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and are having too much relaxation time, I’ve found maintaining a consistent routine and structure to be helpful. Whatever you’re “normal” is, try to keep the same schedule by doing house projects, exercising, or reaching out to people you know who are alone during this time. You’ll not only put a smile on someone else’s face, but this has been found to be a great way to boost your own social-distance blues.

Keeping my head in the game

Young white woman with long dark hair and sunglasses, sitting in a car, very excited about an iced coffee
For me, an iced coffee is the perfect treat and excuse to take a few minutes for myself. How are you creating some small moments for self care during this time?

Working as much as I do and going to school full time, I don’t have very much free time. At the beginning of this quarantine I would push through week by week going without time for myself and I got burned out fast. I realized that I needed to change something, fast. I started experimenting by doing home workouts twice a week or watching an episode of Criminal Minds, just basically doing anything that made me not have to critically think for 45 mins. This decision transformed me into a new person. Just by doing one activity a week whether it be working out, Netflix, or going to the Starbucks drive thru to get a coffee, I’m able to refresh myself back to my equilibrium. National University’s new Mind & Body Wellness Student Organization has been a great way to get in some workouts while connecting with peers.

Even though I haven’t had much time to myself during these past few months, I’ve actually learned a lot about who I am. I’ve figured out what my learning language is, what my limits are, and learned to appreciate the simple things. Most importantly I figured out how to balance my mind and body, and it’s helped guide my way to where I am now as a student and healthcare worker.


It’s my Time – Being a Student Nurse in a Time of COVID

Young female student nurse in scrubs sitting in front of
Japheth Chin, NU Scholar and Student Nurse

By Japheth Chin, Bachelor of Science, Nursing, San Diego.

It’s my time.

Life gets complicated. And when it does, it’s easy to put large dreams like finishing school on the back burner.

Sometimes the hardest part of achieving your dream is finding a place to start. Especially right now, when everything seems to be changing daily, it’s difficult to imagine finding time to sit down and complete classes. I feel so lucky to be a student at National University during this pandemic- despite all of these changes, I have had the support I needed to continue my education. I really appreciate how hard National worked to keep their programs running smoothly and to keep their students afloat in a sea of difficulties and changes.

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In this carefree pre-COVID snapshot, Japheth connects with her fellow student nurses – never guessing how soon they would all be moving to real world COVID care.

For me, this time has a lot in common with my journey to go back to school in the first place.

Going back to school meant accepting my life up to that point as it was, and realizing that, as hard as things were, and as much as I wished they might be different, I could take action to make things better for myself and my future family.

As an aspiring nurse, I did all my core prerequisites for nursing school through National University. Even before getting accepted into their nursing program, I loved the format –  The 1-2-month classes made it easy to take small steps in what I felt was a very big journey; I also really appreciated that they were specifically geared toward working adults and those looking to change careers, and that staff and faculty understood the need to be flexible when life brought changes or complications. I remember feeling like getting into the nursing program was so far away, and then, once I was in, like graduation would never come. Now I am counting down the months on one hand until I graduate with my Bachelor’s in Nursing.

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Japheth perfects her clinical techniques on a lifelike medical simulator.

I feel so lucky to have found a family within my program, and I am strengthened by the support of my classmates. I love moving as a cohort in such a small group of people from class to class in pursuit of the same degree because of the continuity of support, the growth in understanding each classmate over time, and the willingness of other students to provide help. I owe so much to my cohort in their sustained support, especially during this pandemic, as they kept me on track even when I felt anxious.




When the quarantine was ordered, I was so anxious that my plans for my future would be delayed; however, the lengths I have seen the professors and staff go to care for the students during this time is amazing. I especially struggled with the move to fully virtual schooling and imagining how finishing my Bachelor’s in Nursing online would really look like. Professors adapted quickly to online-formats while fighting against phones, food, babies, and other distractions and applauded our resiliency as we push forward to graduation. I have been so lucky to have gained so many meaningful and memorable experiences during my COVID-19 clinicals – from working at an outreach call center to taking temperatures of nurses on shift at the hospital, to swabbing at testing sites. Although it was not what I expected for clinicals, I enjoyed knowing that my university was going to lengths to help me get my clinical hours to graduate on time.

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In a flash, NU student nurses found themselves on the front lines of COVID care – taking temperatures, answering phones, and administering swabs.

I think it is so great that National University is defying the traditional 4-year university and making it possible and comfortable for everyone to have an opportunity to dream bigger. They have adapted their learning and are continuing to change as the life gets more complicated, and have always been so easy to reconcile into the life’s many obligations and responsibilities. I am grateful that I pushed myself to start on this journey because every step counts.

Advice, Education, Graduate Student, Technology

Ayesha Anas, Ed Tech for Teachers

A smiling young woman in business attire and a colorful headscarf
Ayesha Anas, NU Scholar and Future Educator, shares her insights and tips on educational technology for today’s classroom

Featured Educational Technology Apps for Pre-Service Teachers

By Ayesha A. Anas

Even though COVID-19 abruptly changed the classroom dynamic from in-classroom to distance learning, it has certainly not detached teachers from the usage of educational technology tools. As pre-service teachers anxiously prepare for student teaching, what advances them, is their knowledge and implementation of pedagogy-based technology tools. Enlighten yourself by reading more about three ground-breaking applications that will enhance your teaching!

Are you looking for cutting-edge educational technology applications to use? As a pre-service teacher, passionate about leveraging digital applications, I highly recommend that aspiring elementary school teachers learn how to integrate technology into the classroom. Technology integration involves the usage of technology in the classroom to empower students with their learning. Pre-service teachers must learn how to leverage technology to address the needs of the digital generation, referring to those who grew up in a technology-enriched society and are comfortable using technology.

I further recommend the following three educational enterprising tools for future elementary school teachers to utilize for successful, engaging teaching. I encourage pre-service teachers to consider my suggestions and to explore distinct ways to adapt these unique tools creatively for their personal use in the classroom. Out of the plethora of valuable educational technology applications, I chose these three as a starting point for pre-service teachers when beginning to learn about diverse tools to use. I further use unique techniques and tried-and-true methods to optimize my usage of these applications.

Number 1: Adobe Spark (

Adobe spark screen shot

Adobe Spark is available for free and conveniently caters to educators. It was created by Adobe, one of the prevailing industry leaders in design software and publication. Furthermore, Adobe Spark is a suite of three fascinating content-creation tools: Spark Page, Spark Post, and Spark Video. Moreover, users can easily create stunning, magazine-style web pages with Spark Page, alluring graphics with Spark Post, and engaging videos with Spark Video. The paramount part about these three applications is that they barely require any professional design experience. Additionally, Adobe Spark caters to the creation of a variety of suitable educational content, from subject-matter videos with Spark Video (e.g., explaining the American Revolution to fifth-grade students in a social studies unit) to presentation slides with Spark Post that introduce vocabulary words.

The experience I gained while I was a private school teacher using Adobe Spark invoked me in creating compelling content. I used Adobe Spark to create appealing presentation graphics and stunning newsletters for parents with Spark Post and Spark Page, respectively. Additionally, I assigned projects for students to develop a captivating acrostic graphic of their names with Spark Post and About Me web pages with Spark Page. All these products ended up becoming academically beneficial and motivating, which is a metamorphosis to one’s teaching and enhances students’ learning.

For more information, I highly recommend that pre-service teachers  visit This website contains examples of student work and information on using Adobe Spark’s free premium features for classroom teachers. Conveniently, Adobe Spark is also available on iOS devices.


Number 2: Classcraft (

classcraft screenshot

Classcraft is a gamification platform that is excellent for classroom management. It increases student engagement and motivation by harnessing the power of games to boost learning. With compelling features, Classcraft promotes positive learning experiences. Although the application encourages the use of games to enhance one’s teaching, it does not promote video-gaming. Classcraft does include video-gaming elements, such as gaining and losing points, as well as customizing characters. Additionally, it primarily focuses on behaviorist principles for behavior management by enabling the teacher to award or subtract points from students. This feature ends up encouraging constructive behaviors from students.

I used Classcraft with a variety of students from different grade levels, and they loved it. It motivated one at-risk student to achieve better grades and earn points for rewards. He ended up being accountable for his work and getting perfect scores on his exams. I was delighted and felt emotional of the positive learning outcomes. Overall, I could focus more on teaching rather than continually dealing with behavior issues. Classcraft enhanced my classroom management and helped to intimately bond with my students.

Although the paid version of this application has additional attractive features, the free version still has merit. Moreover, the free version includes gamified classroom management (e.g., with a point system), customizable characters that enhance personalization, and convenient parent features (e.g., parents implementing Classcraft at home to award their children with points, parent-teacher communication). Furthermore, the additional features from the paid version are worth investing in to increase classroom management. For example, teachers can create personalized learning quests and utilize useful tools (e.g., noise meter, formative assessment boss battles).

Furthermore, this application may be developmentally appropriate for third-grade students and higher. It may be feasible to implement with primary-grade students, as long as they are interested in fantasy genres (Wayne, Gavin, & Read, 2016). However, the point system might not be suitable for children under five years old because they do not understand the concepts of video-gaming.

For more information, watch this video:

Number 3: Kahoot! (

Kahoot screenshot

Kahoot! is a valuable game-based learning platform that enables users to create quiz games effortlessly on any subject or topic. Teachers can create effective quizzes to introduce a unit, conduct pre-assessment, reinforce knowledge, and even gather formative assessment data to monitor students’ learning and inform future instruction.

Kahoot! is a dynamic application for students to play engaging games that measure their knowledge of a particular subject. Teachers can create a variety of multiple-choice quiz questions and add additional useful content, such as visuals and multimedia, for students to view that clarify the questions. Additionally, teachers can add wait times to provide students with extra time, which benefits English Language Learners (ELLs). Furthermore, the quizzes can even include interactive polls, which teachers can use to successfully gauge how students feel about their mastery of a subject.

Kahoot! further encourages collaboration and teamwork. Students can work in groups to correctly answer the questions.

I used Kahoot! with my sixth-grade students to reinforce and review their knowledge of Mesopotamia. My students worked in teams to answer questions accurately and quickly. I also collected data on which questions my students did not answer correctly, knowing what to reteach to clarify any concepts or reinforce the material that students learned. It was delightful noticing how excited my students were about gaining points and collaborating with each other.

Final Thoughts

Remember to never use technology for the sake of using and having it replace the curriculum that must be taught to students. All teachers should use technology wisely and purposefully to enhance student achievement of all learning outcomes. Teachers have the power to use these applications at their disposal. Even though COVID-19 has altered the educational landscape, it should not cause a learning pandemic. Keep on teaching and cheers to optimizing our students’ learning potential.

Clip art of smartphone, keyboard, and pen
“Remember to never use technology for the sake of using and having it replace the curriculum that must be taught to students. All teachers should use technology wisely and purposefully to enhance student achievement of all learning outcomes.”


Adobe Spark (2020). Adobe Spark across multiple devices [Screenshot].

Kahoot!. (2016). Kahoot! image [Screenshot]. YouTube.

LaFave, N. (2016). Classcraft across multiple devices [Picture]. Nick’s Picks for Educational Technology.