In 2020, high school history teacher Cathy Cluck left school for the spring break and didn't come back. TheCluck and her colleagues had to adapt to virtual teaching. When the new school year started in August, Cluck wanted to find a way to connect with her students even though she couldn't meet them in person.
"When I realized we were going to start completely out of the way, I asked my headmaster if I could log into my classes from actual historical sites and he said, 'Do it, find out the technology and leave it work. "And that's how I did it," Cluck, who teaches at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, told CBS News.
"I teach all of American history for AP [Advanced Placement]. So I wanted to start the course in colonial America, where most of what we would actually study would coincide with my location," she said. "I started in Williamsburg. I spent a day in Jamestown, Virginia."
Cluck filmed her trip for her YouTube channel and talked about every historic site she visited. She even brought a lightweight, foldable desk so she could take virtual classes from anywhere she was that day.
After Virginia, Cluck went to Washington, D.C.
“They were preparing for a big rally the following day to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech. So that was amazing,” she said. "It was special to be able to teach history from this place, you know, right there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial."
Catherine Cluck / YouTube
From there, Cluck continued north to Weehawken, New Jersey, where the Burr-Hamilton duel took place.
"I'm a huge Hamilton fan. So that was the part I thought, 'I'll do this. If I do this for all of you, I'll do this for myself,'" she said with a laugh .
She then went to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, stopped on the Civil War battlefields, and then drove to Memphis, Tennessee.
"I really wanted to spend some time at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was murdered," said Cluck. "It's part of the Civil Rights Museum. I wasn't allowed to go to the Civil Rights Museum because of COVID, but it was important for me to be there."
Cluck said she was concerned she might not be able to make the same connections with students as she did in the classroom, but the road trip ultimately connected her. "It felt like we were all together somehow. It was a way for them to get to know me in an environment where we're not in a classroom together," she said.
Their 15-day road trip ended around Labor Day, but talk is still going on today. Meanwhile, the Presidential Inaugural Committee introduced Cluck as a community hero. "It's humble to me. It's such an honor," Cluck said of the honor. "It is so encouraging to know that teachers are being recognized for having been a very difficult year."
She hoped that her historic trips inspired some of her students to get into their cars and go on a road trip. "I hope they realize that when you go to these places it's not just history, but that America is beautiful as a country. And the people are beautiful," she said. "And it's really easy to just fly over to get from one destination to another, but part of the fun I have on road trips is stopping and seeing the places along the way."
Catherine Cluck / YouTube
Cluck is now back in the classroom and her school is doing hybrid learning where only some of the students are personal. She said with thatThere is hope on the horizon, but she knows that some people are still struggling to adapt to changes during the pandemic. To these people she said, "Take it every day."
"At the beginning of the year, it all seemed so overwhelming and we didn't know how long distance learning [learning] would be. We didn't know how long the pandemic would last," Cluck said. "I mean, teachers are incredibly resilient. And all of us who are in training get it. We know how hard it is.
"And I think at some point we're going to look back and say, 'We did this. I mean, we taught during a global pandemic,'" she said.