Shelby County Schools is celebrating remote teachers and students today (September 15) in honor of National Online Learning Day.
Remote teachers across the district shared their experiences with remote learning, including the early challenges and the more recent successes.
“It’s been an extremely challenging, yet equally rewarding start to our school year,” said Casey Ford, a remote teacher from Calera Elementary School. “Now that parents and students have started learning how to navigate Google Classrooms and we (teachers) have created a routine and outlined procedures, we are able to focus on building relationships with our students so that the real teaching can begin. We are thankful for the flexibility that parents have shown and look forward to partnering with them in helping their students grow. “
“Even though this school year has been different, we are still connecting and making relationships with our students from the safety of their homes,” agreed Chaney Klein, a remote teacher at Oak Mountain Intermediate School.
Several teachers echoed Ford’s sentiment that building a sense of community among their students is something they have been very intentional about doing.
“I thought building a classroom community would be difficult for us due to the circumstances, but I consistently make a point to incorporate fun things to connect us a little more,” said Ashlea Staples, a first-grade remote teacher at Chelsea Park. “For example, I mailed each student a card with sticker puzzles so they could create fun animals. Incorporating things like crazy hat day or bring your stuffed animal to virtual learning day have been very successful. I think this has made a huge difference in how the kids view this new process.”
Caroline Hall, a kindergarten remote teacher at Forest Oaks Elementary agreed that getting started with remote learning was a challenge, but she credits the parents for being very encouraging throughout this process.
“My favorite part of remote learning is getting to have children who would normally attend a different school in Shelby County,” Hall added. “It is so cool to see the children interact with each other and get to know each other from wherever they are.”
Teachers say another important aspect has been making the kids feel special with acknowledgments they would have had the opportunity to receive as a traditional, in-person learner.
“They have done a great job learning every day,” said Helena Elementary remote teacher Kristen Underwood of her students – all of whom are from HES. “We start off each day with a morning meeting where we share fun and exciting things and we count the days in school. They also get to participate in Husky Highlights at Helena. This is where a student is acknowledged for going above and beyond.”
Trivisha Dawson, a teacher at Montevallo Elementary, said she has enjoyed the experience and feels she has learned a lot about teaching virtually.
“I received an email yesterday from a parent,” said Dawson. “She told me that I am doing a great job keeping them engaged and that her daughter enjoys my class. This makes me happy! I am loving every minute of my virtual 2nd-grade class!”
Meghan Handley, a teacher from Helena Elementary, agrees with Dawson that the experience has made her more comfortable with the use of technology as an instructional tool.
“I have created interactive lessons, centers, and more that my students are finding engaging as well as educational!”
Jacie Davidson, a kindergarten teacher from Helena Elementary School said her remote students are having fun this year learning about letters, numbers, and nursery rhymes.
“My students also take Flat Mrs. Davidson along on any adventures they may have away from class,” she said.
Michelle Kelley, a veteran teacher at Vincent Elementary with over 16 years of experience in the classroom is teaching kindergarten virtually this school year.
“I absolutely love virtual teaching,” said Kelley. “I am enjoying the relationships with both parents and students. With virtual teaching, I have been challenged to accelerate my technology skills, and I have learned so much more about how to use technology to help children grow.”
“I am enjoying meeting with my reading and math small groups,” Kelley added. “I have already seen so much progress in my precious students over the past 5 weeks. It is so much fun to be silly and interact with five and six-year-olds, even when it’s virtual.”
Melanie Elliott, another veteran teacher with over 27 years of teaching experience. She has had the unique experience of teaching math to in-person, traditional students in her classroom while also teaching remotely to other students down the hall due to the school currently being short a math teacher.
“As crazy as it may sound, it has gone as well or better than you would think,” Elliott said. “I have multi-level students in these classes because my team is a gifted team and the blue team is a special education team. That keeps my brain spinning because I want to see all of them be successful.”
Elliott said many times she feels as if she receives more feedback from the students on the blue team because they can send answers via chat and not feel inhibited answering questions aloud.
Rebecca Malone Dietz, an English Language Arts teacher at Chelsea Middle School said she feels her students are learning valuable skills as remote learners that will benefit them later.
“Students are working hard not only to learn the content but also in gaining valuable life skills that come from being a virtual learner. They have to stay disciplined, organized, and motivated on their own, which is definitely a challenge,” she said. “They are taking responsibility for their learning and grades, which has been fulfilling to see as a teacher. “