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Southern Tier daughter, mother teaching duo reflects on first, final years of their careers amid a pandemic

Sydney Deppas is getting ready to finish her first year of teaching. Melissa Deppas is about to retire after 31 years in the classroom.

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — First-year teacher Sydney Deppas never imagined the school year would have ended up quite the way it has. 

The same goes for her mom and fellow teacher, Melissa Deppas, who is getting ready to retire after 31 years in the classroom.

"It's so bittersweet because it's just not the way it was supposed to go. It's just as sad for me I think as the kids," said Sydney, who is a first grade teacher for Jamestown Public Schools.

Melissa Deppas started her career in Jamestown before moving to the Southwestern School District where she's worked for the past 28 years.

"Many people have come up to me and said could you ever have imagined this is how you will finish your career? Obviously I could not. I was never about the big fanfare or I am retiring, but I definitely wanted that personal, emotional, mental closure with my students," said Melissa, who is currently a fifth grade teacher.

Sydney spent time in her mom's classroom as a child, and that's what inspired her to follow in her mom's footsteps.

Credit: Melissa Deppas

These days she's lucky to have her mom in the next room to help her, but both admit that they're guiding each other through the learning curves of teaching from home.

"A huge part of teaching is your coworkers, bouncing ideas off each other, learning from each other, and that's kind of what's happening in our house right now. I'm learning from my mom. We're helping each other with Zoom. It's been a learning process for both of us," said Sydney.

Melissa Deppas says the challenges over the past three months have built character, tested work ethic, and challenged motivation — for students, teachers, and parents.

"What doesn't challenge you, doesn't change you," said the elder Deppas. "In the end I think they will be resilient in their futures and will be better prepared in a way to handle just about anything."

The teachers have Zoom meetings with their students, hold virtual office hours, and connect with the kids via email. They say they are proud of the students' participation virtually and proud of how the students have adapted to learning changes.

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