To start the 2020-2021 school year, Saint Columbkille Partnership School’s (STCPS) new Head of School Jennifer Kowieski made the bold and ambitious decision to create faculty positions for three dedicated remote teachers. As part of the school’s successful remote learning model in the spring of 2020, the STCPS teachers worked tirelessly to provide thorough and effective learning at home for all students. Though a full-day, 5-day in-person school week for students was available at the start of the fall semester, some families were unable to send their children to school in person for various health and personal reasons.
Ensuring that a fully remote option was available for those students has proved monumental in enriching the day-to-day education for those families. Providing dedicated remote learning instruction creates an ongoing opportunity for remote students to engage in their education, instead of watching a video of a teacher and students in an in-person classroom. By providing dedicated remote learning teachers, Saint Columbkille has prioritized the needs of all students, not just those who are physically in the building.
“Our mission states that we are committed to the education of children of all backgrounds in an environment that cultivates respect, mutuality and care,” says Ms. Kowieski. “The environment that might be best for some students this year is at home, and we are dedicated to offering a high-quality education for those students in our community as well.”
Daily instruction varies by grade level, and remote teachers have become creative in building a thriving and vibrant virtual classroom this school year. Remote teachers successfully balance direct content instruction with active learning and participation, in addition to asynchronous assignments. Students engage in break-out rooms for small-group work, and join group discussions to ask questions, share their thinking, and express their opinions and ideas. The teacher-student and student-student connections are strong because, for the most part, STCPS virtual classrooms serve the same students each month and include individualized instruction.
“Nothing will stop us from educating our students this year,” says Ms. Regina Capobianco, Remote Learning Specialist for Grades 6-8. “Even though it takes a lot of coordination from teachers, administration, students, and families... I’m proud of that.”
In addition to academics, remote teachers make a point to check in with students from a social-emotional perspective as well. Teachers say good morning to each student by name during the first class each day. And they incorporate fun activities into the Zoom meetings, such as freeze dance Friday for younger students and telling jokes and riddles for older students.
“It is not always easy to make personal connections over a computer,” says Mrs. Kate Bragg, Remote Learning Specialist for kindergarten - Grade 2 and a parent of two remote learners. “But it is important to me that my students feel known and loved in our remote classroom (or our classzoom, as we like to call it).”
Additionally, families in the remote learning model are very involved in their children’s education as well as the remote learning community. Each remote learning cohort has room parents to help facilitate the group atmosphere.
“The remote families have been such a source of support for the remote teachers and one another,” says Mrs. Bragg. “Families quickly mobilized to form a class parent group to help build community.”
Overall, dedicated remote learning has been a success for families, students and teachers. The Saint Columbkille Partnership School community has embraced both in-person and dedicated remote learning in order to offer continuous high-quality learning opportunities for all students in a safe way.