Arkansas teachers are continuing to learn new platforms and adapt to teaching remotely amid the pandemic.
Shortly after the announcement of the first case of coronavirus in Arkansas in March 2020, schools abruptly shut down and moved to online learning. The final months of the school year were challenging as teachers and students both tried to work through such a swift change to their learning environment that many were not prepared for.
Over the summer months, districts worked to develop plans to teach on campus, online or a blended option of the two. During the fall semester, outbreaks and quarantines caused a number of districts with in-person classes to pivot to virtual learning. It’s hard to believe, but it’s almost been an entire year since the virus upended the lives of teachers, students and parents, creating a challenging and uncertain time for education.
Shanta Calhoun is in her third year of teaching and says she is used to being active with her students. In addition to teaching computer science and business classes at Pine Bluff High School, Calhoun is also the Future Business Leaders of America advisor, a robotics coach and a member of prom and graduation committees. With the current virtual learning environment, Calhoun says she really misses her kids.
“Just seeing them via Zoom or via Google Meet, it’s kind of hard because I’m used to having that hands-on with them,” she says. “So not seeing my kids every day and not really connecting with my students on a daily basis has been a little trying.”
Nanette Patiño is a 26-year veteran educator teaching Spanish at Central High School in Little Rock. While she has continued to teach in-person courses, Patiño has also had to learn new platforms and technologies to instruct virtual students. Juggling all of the responsibilities that come with being a teacher during this pandemic has been hard, she says.
“You have to learn what you need for your job and then you have to help your student. And if you have a student at home, you need to help them at home,” Patiño says. “The hats are multiplying by leaps and bounds through this whole experience.”
The switch to online learning has proven difficult for students and families as well. Christhian Saavedra, who teaches Spanish and coaches boys soccer at Rogers Heritage High School, helped deliver Chromebooks to students when school initially shut down in March 2020. Through this experience he learned many students don’t have access to reliable internet at home. For those that do, there’s still the challenge of having parents who may not be able to assist their kids with newer technology.
“I think we have this crazy assumption that because people have social media, they’re good with technology,” Saavedra says.
Teachers and their students have encountered plenty of struggles during the last year, but Saavedra says many of the issues causing the problems aren’t new.
“A lot of the issues that we’re seeing now, I think they’ve been issues. They’ve been lacking, it’s just they haven’t been brought up to the forefront because there wasn’t the need or there was always a way to mask certain things,” Saavedra says.
You can hear more about these teachers’ experiences by listening to the audio file at the top of the page. You can also find past podcast episodes here.