Local Teachers Find New Ways to Connect with and Educate Students

One of the huge issues brought on by COVID-19 was the closing of school buildings all around the area, as well as most, if not all, of the country. The wording of that previous sentence is significant because while the buildings have closed, school is most definitely still in session, thanks to an amazing bunch of people—teachers. By way of full disclosure, I should point out that I myself am a teacher and am therefore a little biased.) That being said, the vast majority of students in the Mid-Ohio Valley are blessed to have teachers who not only have the skills and creativity to, in almost no time at all, move their children’s education from the traditional classroom to the virtual world, but also the commitment—zeal is not too strong a word for many of them—to do it in ways that not only continue to maintain the quality of the lessons presented but in many cases enhances them.

Many teachers use technology to maintain direct interaction with their students. The virtual meeting platform Zoom is being used all over the Mid-Ohio Valley by teachers to carry out classroom discussions and presentations. Teacher Stephanie Adams-Cunningham uses Zoom, “to play math and science Concentration and Jeopardy to review skills.” Another teacher, Julie Nesbitt-Davis uses Zoom for weekly meetings with her students.

Lavetta Compton Napier holds a sign for her Kindergarten Class

Others use programs like Microsoft Teams to have live interactions. Teams allows groups of people all around the world to collaborate on documents in real-time and even allows for video and audio meetings. According to teacher Darlene Parsons, Teams is especially helpful in education because it is both HIPAA and FERPA (laws that protect the privacy of the educational and medical records of students) compliant, something used to good ends by some special education teachers, like Michelle Swisher, who carries on IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings with students and their guardians. These meetings are required regularly to assure that students with special needs are being provided with the specialized education they require, and those meetings have to continue whether school is meeting in a traditional sense or not.

Another way teachers are providing dynamic content is through video channels, such as YouTube, FlipGrid and Class Dojo. Art teacher Jonathan Walsh has a series of YouTube videos entitled, Backyard Ceramics. “I started with digging clay out of the ground, took it all the way to fired ceramics–all in my backyard.” Science teacher Amber Murphy recorded and uploaded a lab in which she extracted DNA from a strawberry.

Several other teachers are doing the same. Similarly, some are using their school’s Facebook page or other programs to send messages to their students. Cheryl Stahle posts a video for her students on FlipGrid. For Lacey Roberts, Class Dojo is the platform she uses. “I’ve been filming myself doing daily read alouds followed by an activity that goes along with the book and posting them to our class dojo! Students are taking photos (with parental help) of the completed activities and I give them feedback.”

For many teachers, it’s less about finding one way to interact with students, but instead about delivering content and enrichment in a variety of ways. Like Tammy Scott. “I have been sending tons of links for things like Lego Challenges, scavenger hunts, virtual field trips, and other things to do at home,” Scott said. “I call and or email weekly, have assignments posted on the Wood County Schools page, I spend hours finding, posting, and sharing educational links for my kids.”

Cheryl Stahle in her “classroom”  

Jessie Marie Ice takes a similar approach by using “Facebook Live videos for book study read-alouds, Zoom meetings, continuous use of Remind for communicating with families, Innovate website for instruction, LiveGrades for communication with families not using Remind, school Facebook page and teacher page, emails to families that do not respond to the group messages sent out…” The list goes on.

While learning is important, it’s also vital that students be reminded they are members of a community. To that end, at least three schools have already had or are having virtual spirit weeks. Parkersburg High School and Jackson Middle School are having theme days, asking their students to upload photos of themselves participating in each day’s theme to the school’s Facebook page. Lubeck Elementary did the same thing last week.

Lubeck Elementary School’s Spirit Week Line-Up

This article could go on seemingly forever. So many teachers are doing so many amazing things to make sure their students are not falling behind or losing the value of the education they were able to receive before this crisis hit. With little to no guidance in terms of how to best go about it, the teachers of the MOV went from teaching in the classroom to teaching remotely in a matter of just a few days. It seemed like an impossible task, but most teachers didn’t even flinch when given the task. Many do at least one impossible thing each day before lunch. I am proud to be counted among them.