When Nancy Hoyt first walked into a Long Beach classroom in the fall of 1983, things looked a little different than they did last week as she was locking up her room at Carver Elementary for the last time. Back then, there were no classes on Zoom, no internet, no computers.

“A magnetic whiteboard would have seemed like magic,” she said with a laugh. “When I started, we had a chalkboard. We didn’t have copiers, we had the old mimeograph machine, and we had to load film into our projectors. There were no cell phones, and the parents would never have your phone number—then this last year, you’re talking to parents at home all the time.”

Hoyt is one of 301 Long Beach Unified School District employees retiring at the end of this school year—a higher-than-average number after a year thrown into turmoil by the coronavirus pandemic.

After spending two years at Our Lady of Refuge from 1983 through 1985, Hoyt has been an elementary school teacher in the LBUSD for 36 years, with 11 years teaching at Lincoln Elementary before moving to Carver in East Long Beach, where she’s been a 2nd- and 3rd-grade teacher for 25 years.

She said it wasn’t easy teaching her last year mostly via Zoom, but she didn’t have second thoughts about going into the school year, even with all its uncertainty.

Nancy Hoyt in her classroom at Carver Elementary School in Long Beach Monday, June 21, 2021. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

“So many people kept asking last summer, ‘Why don’t you just retire now, why do you want to do this to yourself?’” recalled Hoyt. “My plan was always to retire this year. I like challenges and it was a different type of learning challenge. There was a lot of planning, making a new plan, figure out how to get it on Canvas, pray that Zoom works that day, then finding out something doesn’t go through on Google. There were a lot of extra hours Sunday mornings planning and getting everything loaded onto my class module.”

Hoyt typified the can-do spirit of the city’s educators this year, doing her best to make a bad situation as comfortable as possible for all involved. She said that while the technology of teaching has changed enormously throughout her career, her desire to help kids has remained constant—and the most important part of her job each day.

“I’ve always been a positive person, and I kept reminding myself that the students didn’t ask for this either,” she said. “I just decided to give it my best and make it a good last year. The kids did really well, the young kids were so quick to adapt, some of my students were better on the computer than I was. They were more flexible where I was a little scared. They were ready to dive in and do it.”

Hoyt said her anxiety before the year was centered not just around the technological shift, but around how effective her teaching style would be coming through a screen, especially with young students.

“The age I teach, if a bird flies by the window, you’ve lost them,” she said. “But they did a great job.”

Several of Hoyt’s former students visited her after their high school graduation this year, something she says happens every year. Photo courtesy Nancy Hoyt.

Hoyt has always been a well-liked teacher in East Long Beach, the rare kind that high school graduates not only remember but come back to thank as they leave the K-12 district for college. But a lifetime of skills and earned confidence were put to the test in March of 2020 when the district shut campuses down.

“I don’t like sci-fi movies and it was like living in a sci-fi movie,” she said. “When we shut down March 13, it was fast and furious, and nobody knew what to expect. We told the kids to take their books home and crossed our fingers.”

As that school year finished and a Zoom-centric fall 2020 came up, Hoyt said her support team at Carver and her students’ parents helped things progress.

“I think at the elementary level the teachers and parents got a lot closer this year because at that age we really did all have to work together,” she said.

Hoyt decided to teach virtually from her classroom so that she could keep her routine, and said she didn’t experience the full effects of isolation she heard about from other colleagues because she was able to still have daily lunch with the other Carver employees who’d chosen to teach on campus.

She also did everything she could to make the year special, including having a children’s author speak to the class via Zoom. She also continued to hope that she’d see students in person before her career came to a close.

“I just prayed that they would be able to come back, I really did,” she said. “On March 29 when they did, that was the best. To hear the noises from the playground, to hear their voices and their laughter, it was the best. I got that closure that I needed to say that this was my career and I can feel good about what I did.”

At Carver’s closing meeting among staff members last week, the sky opened up for a random ten-minute downpour during the portion of the meeting dedicated to saying goodbye to Hoyt and the two other employees at the school who were retiring.

“It opened up and poured during our goodbye meeting and that’s exactly how I felt,” she said. “There was just emotion pouring out of me.”