Tina Webb, John Spitzer teach students remotely
Local instructors find ways to reach students from afar
Area teachers have been rising to the challenge of teaching students at a distance since the governor ordered schools closed in mid-March.
Tina Webb, a physical science teacher at Minot High School-Central Campus, has received praise from the grandfather of one student for keeping in touch with his grandson.
Webb said teachers at Central Campus have been using Google Classroom, a virtual classroom. She makes use of video conferencing, videos, online chats and email and other formats for communication and also plain old home phone calls to her students and students’ parents to stay in touch.
Right now her students are studying concepts like energy and the laws of thermodynamics. She will soon ask them to go out and investigate those concepts and see how they work in real life and report back.
Webb’s department has been making use of Google Classroom for years, so her students are used to the format, but other teachers and students might be somewhat less familiar.
Webb is responsible for teaching some 110 students who live all over the city and in the countryside. They are also able to get in touch with her whenever they have a question.
“Kids are my number one priority,” she said in an email. “While we are in the midst of distance education, my approach to education still focuses on what kids need and what is best for kids. Being there to support my kids and allowing them to make mistakes with a safety net while learning at home creates a level of trust. I know my students are always trying their best. They also know it’s OK to make mistakes and that is how we learn. It all builds trust and relationships. Right now, more than ever, maintaining a connection through a meaningful relationship and communication (as best as possible in these circumstances) is so important. Having kids and families know I care is most important.”
She also has a teenager who is learning from home.
“We each stake out a little area of the house and do our work over the day,” said Webb.
Minot Public Schools has also invested a lot in the concept of Professional Learning Communities, which involves a lot of collaboration with other teachers. Webb said she has stayed in close contact with other teachers as well and they share information about how best to teach in these unprecedented times.
“Distance learning has changed a lot of things but I am so fortunate to work in a wonderful school with a great staff that prides themselves on working with a team approach,” said Webb in the email. “Central Campus has been a model PLC (Professional Learning Community) school for years and as a physical science department we have never been stronger with our collaboration. It has been constant since the inception of COVID-19, where we are reformatting and making science digital and ready for learning at home.
“My approach to distance learning is focused on communication and clear expectations through organization. Being realistic, patient, and flexible with students and their science education is key. Teachers, students and families are working so hard to handle the stresses of COVID-19 while learning how to be so independent with education at home. Education isn’t always easy, even when we are together in a classroom. So I applaud the efforts and hard work of teachers, kids and their families to keep learning! I’m very proud of my students and families! Together we get better!”
Webb said she believes her students have definitely been learning using the online format. They are also learning that it’s all right to make mistakes while learning new things.
Glenburn High School band teacher John Spitzer is also finding new ways to teach online.
Spitzer recorded a video of himself conducting “Salvation is Created” by Pavel Chesnokov, arranged by Michael Brown, and had them record their parts on their cell phones. They then sent the audio clips to Spitzer, who edited the audio clips together to create one piece of music, according to the transcript of the video. He wrote that “students recorded themselves playing whether in their basements, bedrooms or living rooms and in the midst of phones ringing, babies crying, siblings playing, parents working from home and dogs barking students came together to create music with one another from afar,” acccording to the video that was posted on Youtube.
One band student is quoted in the video as saying that: “We might have had a bad day in class, but the next day Mr. Spitzer walks in with a smile and an optimistic attitude that today will be better and during this crazy time, we’ll need to believe that today will be better than yesterday. We need to remember that that we are all in this together and that we each need to do our part.”
The result was not perfect, but Spitzer said he believes that it turned out well. He said teachers and students are still adapting to the online instruction and some students have had the challenge of poor internet or lack of a computer at home. He said the school has lent laptops to some students and internet companies have stepped forward and are helping with the cost of internet access for the next few months so students can finish classes.
Spitzer created the video performance as a tribute to his good friend Scott Herslip of Minot, who died last week of the coronavirus, and of all the other victims of coronavirus.
The video of the performance by Spitzer and his high school band can be viewed on youtube.com by searching “Salvation is Created-Glenburn HS Distrance Learning in Tribute to Scott Herslip.”