MACOMB, Ill. (WGEM) -- Macomb High School science teacher Karissa Ham was awarded January's WGEM Golden Apple Award.
Ham's typically very hands-on science class is a little more hands-off these days due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"With the bigger projects, I've really had to cut back on because they really require groups of kids to work together," Ham said.
To keep class sizes small during the pandemic, the district currently operates on a hybrid system, which means half the time students learn remotely.
"I only actually see the kids in person twice a week," Ham said.
Ham said it's a challenge to turn a hands-on lab lesson into one that's achievable and engaging for both students in the classroom, and those learning from home.
"It's easy enough to learn in her classroom, but hard enough it challenges you," Macomb student Rheghan Harting said.
"I have kids who are all online. I drive and deliver them lab supplies to their home, so they can still feel like they are doing the fun things that we are doing in class," Ham said.
Ham also finds creative ways to utilize the space outside her classroom.
WGEM weather forecaster Jesse Risley teaches geography in the classroom next door. He said he sees firsthand her extra effort.
"They are outside my door a lot of times doing projects, doing labs, using the school environment the best they can to apply what they are learning in class to real-life lab examples," Risley said.
A parent, whose child is in Ham's class, nominated her for the Golden Apple Award. She said Ham provides support for students' academics and their well-being.
Fellow teachers and students agree.
"She's really easy to talk to. You can go to her about anything," Harting said.
"She goes a lot of extra miles caring for the kids and showing them that, and really working with them to get them up to speed," Risley said.
Ham said she tries to be a "whole student" educator.
"I'm very transparent with the kids. We talk about real-life things other than just science, and just try to make sure I'm always there to support them," Ham said.