MALDEN (CBS) — It’s no secret the coronavirus pandemic has been especially difficult on students. Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Jennifer Hedrington said it’s been all the more reason to focus “more on the child and their reality.”

Hedrington, a seventh-grade math teacher at Ferryway School in Malden, has been teaching secondary math for 16 years.

She said teaching this year has demonstrated “that wherever [the students] are, they need to feel comfortable in that situation in order to receive the information.”

Spending time with the kids keeps Hedrington coming back.

“They make me laugh. They’re not predictable so every day is a new day. And that keeps me going, just looking forward to seeing them and laughing with them and talking to them,” she said.

Hedrington tells concerned parents, “especially with seventh-grade, I tell them, even today, I told them today: this is just a grain of sand on the beach of life. This will pass. And speaking of the beach, ride the wave. Just go with it and you will get what you need to get.”

Hedrington was awarded the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year last month. She said it’s been a “humbling experience. I’m still trying to receive all of it and understand what just happened.”

Her students are “still are more excited than I am,” Hedrington said. “My former students when I told them, they were like ‘yeah.’ They weren’t excited, they were like ‘we knew this was happening.'”

To young people considering a career in education, Hedrington’s advice is: “become the teacher you needed when you were a child. Those are the best teachers, when you realize that you can be what you needed, you can impact so many lives.”

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