It was a small gesture with a big impact. A moment, Kendra Cleave will remember as a huge teaching success.
“I received a picture from one of my students and could see the great effort she put into it. She included accurate colours for my hair, glasses, eyes; no detail was too small. She also had me wearing a math shirt since she knows that I love math!”
To Cleave, the portrait means connection, something she aims to create everyday while teaching her students from afar. She is part of, PembinaTrails@Home, a full-year online learning experience created to accommodate our immunocompromised students and their families, during COVID-19.
Since September, a dedicated team of seven instructors have been instrumental in getting PembinaTrails@Home up and running. The program currently supports 138 students in Grades 1 through 8.
Cleave joined Pembina Trails with eight years previous teaching experience, including all the challenges that came with the transition to remote learning at the end of last school year. Her aptitude for technology and appetite for a challenge made her jump at the chance to join the team.
“I pride myself on my ability to create exciting lessons that integrate technology, differentiate instruction, and promote student engagement,” Cleave shared.
Her Grade 5/6 teaching space at Pacific Junction looks and functions like an in-person classroom.
“I feel like I am in a physical classroom and I hope the setup also makes my students feel that way. I have two computer screens, a document camera and a moveable webcam… I am trying many new methods, as we do not know what works best for remote learning yet. There is no playbook for this learning style, and I’ve embraced the need to test out new strategies as I see fit.”
Cleave has made sure to also add some joy, “I currently have lights up behind me to bring in some holiday spirit. The students love it!”
Small personal touches help the program mirror in-person learning, while managing the unique elements of virtual learning. Julie Cordova, principal of curriculum, shares how teacher time on screen is spread throughout the day, with regular check-ins and live sessions alternating with periods of independent work.
“The students are working hard to keep up with their learning responsibilities while transitioning through this very new way of ‘doing school,’” she says. “As we continue to move forward, we will work to inspire and empower every student.”
The success of PembinaTrails@Home relies on strong partnerships. The vison was to establish a strong flow of communication between parents, students, staff and senior administration. Our divisional curriculum consultant team, in collaboration with the Learning and Information Technology designers, prepared and facilitated remote parent information sessions to learn about Microsoft Teams, SeeSaw and Edsby, the divisional learning technology platforms. An exciting step was the first ever-online parent information session at the end of October, where parents had a chance to connect with superintendent Ted Fransen and assistant superintendent Janet Tomy.
“The parent community has been extremely gracious and supportive of all of our work efforts,” said Cordova.
Back in Cleave’s class, students are creating their own sense of community, despite having never met in person before. She emphasizes it is vital to her that students and parents view virtual learning and classroom learning as equally valid and valuable.
“I want to make sure that students today, and in the future, will not see online school as an ‘instead of’ option, but as a viable alternative option to the classroom. … [When] my students return to their home schools, I want them to feel as though their ‘pandemic school year’ was as enjoyable as [it was for] their peers who remained in the classroom. I want them to know that we are not leaving them behind.”