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Teachers Adapting to Distance Learning

“It was the saddest thing because we said bye to our children on a Thursday, [March 12] and the children were not going to be in attendance on Friday because we had a previously scheduled professional development. Then, of course, the news was being rolled out. We didn’t get to say good-bye. That was one of the hardest parts of all of this. The teachers did not get to say good-bye,” said Margie Minnery, a first-grade teacher at Laurelwood Elementary School.

Minnery, like all of the teachers in the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD), is adapting to a new normal — distance learning. The 15-year teaching veteran is learning new technology and a new way of communicating with parents and now she’s settling in.

“The Google Meet, to see the child live and the families coming in… That has been everything to me as a first-grade teacher,” said Minnery. “When I spoke with the children that [first] morning, it was not sad that we weren’t going to be together. It was all of a sudden, it was this is our new classroom and you’re going to visit it each day and we’re going to meet. Just telling them positively, school’s in session.”

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For Laurelwood Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Kristen Epolite, it was the time between the end of school and the start of distance learning that was tough.

“When we first started there was a lot of anxiety and sadness because we feel for the students,” said Epolite. “I think that at first some of them were like, ‘Sweet, we get to stay home and play on the computer.’ But I think it got old very quickly for them. I think that they are adjusting to it, but I think that most of them would prefer to be at school.”

For Epolite, the fourth-graders have settled in and are forming new memories.

“My students had already known about my pets,” said Epolite. “My cat Gus made an appearance, then of course, true to his personality, started to bite me. I said, ‘Ouch. Ouch.’ And one of my students unmuted her mic and said, ‘Why are you saying ouch Mrs. Epolite?’ I said, ‘Gus bit me.’ And she said, ‘Classic Gus.’ There are these little moments that we have.”

Laurelwood Elementary School Assistant Principal Paul Fuller says he’s happy with the way his team is working together.

“Everybody’s continuing to learn and supporting each other and work collaboratively so that part’s been great to see how well people have been sticking together and supporting each other. They took on this new venture that came out of nowhere,” said Fuller.

For Fuller, distance learning means juggling his role as an Associate Principal with his role as a father of a sixth grader.

“For him, it’s been good to have that connection with some of his teachers in their meetings and lessons that they’re running,” said Fuller. “As a parent, it’s gone pretty well…It was nice to see that they kind of flexed things a little bit and gave opportunities for teachers and students to work within the day what fit them best knowing that some students may not be able to get on at certain times and would need to work later in the day.”

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