FREMONT, Ind. (AP) — In a short amount of time, teachers across the state had to convert their teaching style from face to face to virtual as the governor closed schools for the year due to COVID-19.
For some, that transition was easy as they already used digital methods here and there. For others, it took a little figuring out and creativity.
But for all, it was a transition that they never expected to have to make. And now, for some, this unexpected school year has ended or is about to.
“Teachers have worked their tails off to make sure students get a quality educational product,” said Drew Kuespert, an eighth grade teacher at Fremont Middle School. “I think it’s been successful and has exceeded expectations.”
Fremont is one of the schools in the area that did not have e-learning prior to COVID-19.
“The corporation had originally looked at an 18-month transition to e-learning,” Kuespert said. “That transition turned into three to four hours and everyone has gone above and beyond.”
Fremont Community Schools Superintendent Bill Stitt said there has been more than 84% active participation in e-learning from students, with some classes seeing as high as 95% or more participation.
“We have handed out 33 hotspots for families without internet,” Stitt said. “I am so very proud of everyone at Fremont Community Schools. Students, faculty and staff, parents and caregivers have really stepped out of their comfort zone and tried to make this time successful.”
Fremont had its last day of e-learning for the school year on Friday.
Jenn Dowell teaches math at Angola High School and said e-learning for her has been a lot of behind the scenes work to make sure her students continue to get their education.
“Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday around 9 a.m. I post the students’ assignments,” she said. “I also post pictures of my notes with worked out problems and then a video of me teaching that lesson.”
Once posting the lesson, Dowell said she sits on Google Meet until about 2 p.m. in case any of the students need to hop on for additional help with the assignment or lesson. Students can also hop on Google Meet early and have the lesson taught to them live.
“Very few have taken me up on that,” she said.
Overall, she said, the students are doing a lot better than she expected they would.
Technology Director for the Metropolitan School District of Steuben County Chantell Manahan said while not a hard rule, teachers in the district have been encouraged to make their lessons on Google Slides, which can be downloaded to a district Chromebook and then accessed even when offline.
Families can pull up to schools in the district and their child’s Chromebook will connect to the wireless internet automatically to download necessary information. Thursday is the last day for classes at MSD.
“While every education and technology company is offering services to schools at free or discounted rates due to the pandemic, teachers and students are using the same tools and services they accessed while school was in session,” Manahan said. “Now, when teachers and students aren’t physically together, is not the time to introduce a new protocol or a new technology tool. As much as possible, teachers and students are following the same routines that they have established since the beginning of the school year.”
Prairie Heights Elementary School second grade teacher Chris Ellert said remote learning was something he never expected to have to encounter, and something he hopes doesn’t have to happen on the long-term again.
“As a second grade teacher, I know how much these kids thrive off one another,” he said. “They can learn from each other and gain knowledge from their peers. With remote learning, that isn’t able to happen.”
While students leave during a normal school year, Ellert said there is time to prepare and be ready to send them on. With school shuttering so quickly due to the pandemic, that mental and emotional preparation for students and teachers alike didn’t get to happen.
“From a teacher’s view, when we say its heartbreaking, we mean it in every sense of the word,” he said.
Remote learning for the Prairie Heights Panthers is set to be finished on May 28.
Hamilton fifth grade teacher Megan Books has been using Google Classroom and making paper work packets for her students that don’t have internet access at home in addition to trying to meet with her class on Zoom twice a week.
“For me personally, the switch has been stressful,” Books said.
During the school year, students are only allowed 45 minutes per day on the computer in the school building. Its a big difference for them, she said, going from that time limit to everything for their education being online all day.
Hamilton students finished their e-learning on May 23.
E-learning for all area schools is winding down or done for the semester, with many hoping to return to normal school in the fall.
Source: The Herald-Republican