INSPIRED. Not All Super Heroes Wear Capes - Part 2. Harnessing Opportunities for Growth
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it's no secret that learning has changed.
Students receive instruction far more often by themselves than they do in groups. Classes are done remotely. The familiar pace of a typical school day has been replaced by something new.
But students aren't the only ones for whom life has changed. Just as often, teachers are dealing with the impact of the pandemic on learning. And Lee County Schools has been at the front of not just recognizing those changes, but harnessing them into opportunities for growth.
Dr. Chris Dossenbach, Patricia Coldren and veteran teachers also had professional development sessions with beginning teachers – in this session, they discusses pursuing a Masters Degree and National Board Certification.
“Our biggest concern with this major switch is even though our teachers are familiar with technology, it really is a different approach, and you have to adjust,” said Dr. Chris Dossenbach, Lee County Schools assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “A lot of people, myself included, have had to make a big adjustment.”
To acknowledge and address that challenge, the district began during the first week of May – which is also National Teacher Appreciation Week – implementing a special series in their ongoing professional development opportunities for educators. Participants had a lot of leeway in regards to what that looked like, and a range of options from yoga to art, from gathering information about plants in the wild to maximizing one's ability to work from home and information about the pandemic, were utilized as a result.
Yoga Instructor Mallory Foster teaches teachers about wellness and yoga.
“Our (professional development) has been both academic but also recreational,” explained Scott Hurdt, a fifth grade teacher at J. Glenn Edwards Elementary. “We were offered PDs where we could ask questions about the small details where we get 'stuck' sometimes and then other PDs were simply sharing different strategies you can use with platforms we are already using. I think that Lee County did an excellent job in offering many different PD's for us that also helped our stamina.”
Patricia Coldren is the district's beginning teacher coordinator and helped facilitate the professional development sessions. She emphasized that professional development is designed to address not only today's challenges, but also the ones ahead.
“The professional development has been invaluable and we have seen such dedication from our Lee County staff to tackle the challenge, attend professional development weekly and not only grow their instructional tool belt for these times, but for when we return to our school buildings,” she said. “We designed one full week to promote their health, fitness and social emotional well-being so that they will be prepared to help our students in any capacity. I can't say enough about their commitment and flexibility.”
Lee County Schools Mental Health Team Members Reagan Courliss and Nejla DeLambert presented on emotional agility and well-being, discussing emotional and mental health during this crisis and teaching teachers some tools that "might help you feel a little less 'not okay' moving forward".
Sheila Lloyd, who teaches at B.T. Bullock Elementary is in her final year as an educator, but said she'll be able to use the professional development tools going forward regardless.
“Students will love the simple activities our instructor taught us in the professional development. These can be easily taught remotely and will give students a chance to relax in a meaningful way while exploring their yards at home,” she said. “Personally, I will be able to use the movement, healthy eating ideas and scheduling since I am retiring after this school year.”
Greenwood Administrative Intern Wendy Bryant teaches teachers to teach with art.
Wendy Bryant is an administrative intern at Greenwood Elementary and said she used something she'd been doing during quarantine anyway as an opportunity to teach teachers how to teach with art.
“As an avid gardener, I had items around my home that I could use to create these peaceful and sometimes whimsical pieces of art,” she said. “When deciding what to do, I thought about what one may have in his or her home at the moment. I demonstrated how to create a viewfinder and focus on an area outdoors to paint or draw. My message: creating is about the process and not the end product. It's about having fun and not being perfect.”
The N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center, taught teachers about healthy eating, self care, physical health and wellness.
Amy Keister also teaches at Edwards Elementary, and said the lessons have been helpful for distance instruction, but will also be put to work when in-person classes resume.
“During Teacher Appreciation Week, there were many opportunities for staff to enjoy professional development on healthy eating habits, effectively working from home and how to maintain our overall wellbeing during this time through art and exercise. All of this professional development was helpful since we’re all spending more time at home and have had to quickly adjust to teaching in a virtual setting,” she said. “I look forward to utilizing these areas of professional development in my classroom next year by making sure I incorporate a healthier lifestyle for myself and finding ways to incorporate exercise and art into my lessons to give my students 'brain breaks.'”
Numerous teachers logged into each professional development session during Teacher Appreciation Week.
Dossenbach said the lessons learned during Teacher Appreciation Week will help not just teachers, but students and their parents as well.
“A lot of parents have had to suddenly become teachers themselves,” he said. “And so I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do – literally over the course of 48 hours we’ve had to switch from a normal school district to one that does everything remotely, and I’m extremely proud of all the work our teachers have done. They’ve been put in a difficult situation, and have made the best of it.”
Inspired is a digital digest published each week during the academic year by Lee County Schools to highlight accomplishments of students, faculty and staff.