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Q&A: Longtime teacher, coach Bernie Koontz reflects on first week of school, getting back to high school sports

Manchester Valley head football coach Bernie Koontz throws passes to senior Nathaniel Costley and the group of running backs during a team practice at the school on Monday, August 26.
Manchester Valley head football coach Bernie Koontz throws passes to senior Nathaniel Costley and the group of running backs during a team practice at the school on Monday, August 26. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Bernie Koontz’s 29th year as a teacher started in unique fashion as he and his Carroll County Public Schools colleagues began with virtual learning. Schools remain closed for students because of the coronavirus pandemic, giving the start of the 2020-21 year an unprecedented distinction.

Koontz, a Frederick County native, has been a coach for more than three decades, with seasons spent coaching boys and girls basketball, track and field, and football. Koontz has worked at Robert Moton and Friendship Valley elementary schools, North Carroll Middle, and Winters Mill and Manchester Valley high schools. He also logged time as a coach with Westminster and North Carroll high schools.

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Koontz, 52, became varsity football coach at Manchester Valley High School in 2018. The Mavericks went 3-7 that season, but followed that with a 6-5 record. The Mavs qualified for the Class 3A East Region playoffs and beat Hammond 14-6 in the opening round. It marked Manchester Valley’s first postseason berth in four years.

There won’t by any football this fall, but the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s plan to resume high school sports in the second semester of the school year has Koontz & Co. trying to stay positive amid the pandemic. The Times caught up with the longtime coach to talk about the first week of school, and hie feelings about getting back to normalcy on the playing fields.

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Q: How did the first day of school go for you as a teacher?

A: The day was different for sure with no kids in the building. Classes were well attended and [it] was good to connect with the students in the Google Meet.

Q: Did you experience any technical issues along the way?

A: Remembering all the steps along the way. Forgetting to record or stopping the recording. Remembering to take attendance. Returning from a video and forgetting that I had my mic muted.

Q: What were there any differences in teaching from this week and back in the spring when schools were closed amid the pandemic?

A: Better attendance. More technology. Meeting virtually every day.

Q: What do you think about the county’s enhanced virtual learning practices?

A: First thought is overwhelming. All in all it has been much better than in the spring.

Q: Speaking of practice, how excited are you and the Mavericks to get back to playing football?

A: It will be great to get back to face to face interactions with the players. It will be like a breath of fresh air.

Q: Do you think we’ll see all three sports seasons being played back-to-back in a few months?

A: I hope the students get to experience all three seasons. With other states around playing and all the rec/club sports being played it would be nice for our students to be given the choice to be able to participate in a sports season.

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