Dani Rauchwarg and Ted Gutches, both 2019 Longwood graduates, are used to taking things in stride—both in their personal and professional lives.
The couple have endured numerous separations over the past nine years, beginning with Rauchwarg’s transfer to a different school at the end of the eighth grade. She and Gutches had just discovered that they really liked each other after attending the same school for only one year.
Long and frequent telephone conversations kept their connection alive back then and through the separations they would weather over the next several years, before and after they attended Longwood together.
Maybe those experiences as a couple are one reason they seem to be rolling with the punches of the Covid-19 pandemic in their first 18 months out of college.
Gutches is on the frontlines, working as a medical scribe in a hectic emergency department in Newport News, where his job is to record information gathered during health-care providers’ interactions with patients. Rauchwarg is teaching K-5 music in Williamsburg.
“In the spring of 2020, the pandemic changed everything—and it’s still changing everything about my job,” said Rauchwarg, who started her job pre-pandemic, in August 2019, at James River Elementary, which is in the same district she graduated from. Just a few months later, students and teachers were sent home for the remainder of the year, and students are continuing their studies remotely for at least the first nine weeks of this school year.
“Miss R,” as her students call her, has had to adjust to posting pre-recorded lessons that her students will watch later. Gone for now is her favorite thing about teaching: “seeing their little faces light up” when they play their drums and xylophones or sing a new song.
A particular challenge is that many of the families in her district lack the technology that makes remote learning possible, she said. “My district purchased 4,000 devices this year—[grades] K-2 have tablets, 3-5 have laptops—so that every child has their own device.”
One hopeful sign is that her students seem to be more engaged with remote learning this year, she said. “I was pleasantly surprised to receive nearly 85 submissions of music homework one week at the start of the year,” she said. “Last spring, I was averaging maybe eight a week.
“It’s definitely a crazy year, but I do know it’s making me become a better educator,” she said.
For Gutches, Covid-19 has created other kinds of challenges. The hospital where he works, Riverside Regional Medical Center, has had its share of patients with Covid-19, making the ED “one of those high-risk places people were staying away from,” he said. The decline in demand meant a cutback in hours for the medical scribes.
He says his job is the perfect preparation for achieving his ultimate goal—becoming a physician. He’s applied to more than a dozen schools, and has his fingers crossed that he’ll be on his way to a medical degree starting in fall 2021.
“A pretty wide spectrum of cases rolls through, from chronic disease to acute trauma,” he said, adding that being a scribe is teaching him a lot about the practice of medicine, including how to take a history and how to conduct an exam in a stressful environment.
So, is there another separation ahead for the couple if Gutches is admitted to medical school outside the Williamsburg area?
“We’ve had long discussions about getting married,” he said, “but the timeline is not definite right now. The ball is technically in my court. I’m working on it—trust me.”