May 7, 2020


Honors Alumna Christena Tenney is a prime example of how difficult times can provide us with new perspectives and opportunities to learn, grow and enrich our lives. In the piece below, she offers her insight on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m a wife, mother, educator, and a person on planet Earth trying desperately to find the new normal through this COVID-19 pandemic. My mind has clips from horror films on loop as I ask questions like: Are my students safe with their caretakers? Will they have enough to eat? Will my family and friends be alright? Will our country and economy be able to recover? These are the kinds of questions we are all grappling with right now. Strangely enough, along with these anxieties, positive surprises and relatable humorous moments have begun to unveil themselves providing much needed comfort and a good dose of healthy perspective.


Tenney family at the dinner table
Christena Tenney with her husband Nate, both Honors College alumni, and their two children, Chase (L) and Rustin (R).

Some parts are hilariously absurd, like the time I noticed little scrunched up faces belonging to my 9 and 6-year-old pressed against the office door during an “important” Zoom meeting mouthing, “Can we have gummy bears?”, and me knowing they had me trapped and that I would say yes! Another source of amusement (and anxiety) is when my field of view on my iPad accidentally drops during a Facetime or Zoom meeting to show more than the “staged” part of my home (note to self…download virtual backgrounds), or those surprise visits from my kids. I have also really relaxed my notion of screen time and my definition of what constitutes a healthy lunch. Is anyone else getting quite adept at figuring out how many snacks equate to a meal?

Still, there are other parts of this that have turned out to be quite beneficial. For years, there was a neglected corner in our backyard that we just never seemed or wanted to pay attention to. We decided to use up some of our pent-up energy and extra time to tackle that corner and make into something usable and great. This whole pandemic has generated opportunities for all kinds of home improvement projects both inside and out. But more importantly, it has helped make our house feel more like a home than it has in a long time. We are a family with a sense of unity and purpose and we have time to work on our relationships with each other. We are able to change up our routines and focus on each other, as well as work on reconnecting with friends and family that we may have taken for granted in the past.

The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed been difficult and traumatic, but it has allowed me and my family to hit reset on a lot of the chaos and activity-filled schedules that had become the status quo. My sincere hope is that we can take the benefits that we have realized from this forced change in routine and more time together, and weave them in with all the good things that “normal” life used to bring. We are fortunate to have this opportunity to form new and improved personal and family approaches to our relationships and work. I believe this results in all of us being just a little bit better people on the other side.

Christena and her family live in Tucson, Arizona. She is a National Board Certified teacher and Title I reading specialist with a focus on elementary students in the Flowing Wells School District. Christena graduated from the University of Arizona in 2003 with Honors, and went on to get two Master’s degrees from Northern Arizona University with emphasis in Reading and Administration. She currently serves on the Honors College Dean’s Board of Advisors.