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Scots Share Stories of Distance Learning in their Own Words - Moments Marked by Success, Learning & Humor

From March to May, Saint Andrew’s faculty, parents, and students grappled with the harsh realities of COVID - 19 including working to stay healthy and safe, stocking up on food and wellness supplies, dealing with school closure, and managing a new life of social distancing - all the while figuring out how to teach and learn in a new virtual environment.
 
SA wishes to offer a tribute to the ways in which Scots stepped up to the challenges of the pandemic. Supreme among these is the way its teachers made impressive, rapid, and necessary changes as the school moved to distance learning. 
 
With every passing week of Spring 2020, teachers found that distance learning seemed to evolve, bringing with it new challenges. Despite the cloud of hardship, a positive silver-lining began to emerge in the professional lives of SA teachers. 
 
For SA teachers, the silver lining became the opportunity to learn and develop dynamic instructional methods and new ways of teaching they had never before imagined. As they worked tirelessly to deploy a novel combination of asynchronous and synchronous learning, employing a wide range of new technology and online programs, SA teachers began to expand their professional repertoire in exciting and transformative ways. 
 
Saint Andrew’s School Teachers Share Distance Learning Reflections 
 
In their own words, Saint Andrew’s faculty share their instructional and curricular successes, as well as divulge how they learned from difficulties and challenges throughout the distance learning experience. 
 
Aida Pozo - Upper School Math Teacher
A Success: “Working closely with my colleagues has been the best part of online learning. We communicate consistently about what is working and what isn't, we present different questions and solutions to each other, and run lesson plans ideas too. I have found my colleagues to be my greatest support. Also, using whiteboard.fi has been helpful to check for student engagement in classes when mics and videos are all off.” 
A Lesson Learned: “I joined a Google Meet early to be sure that I didn't miss the class, only to forget I had joined. The students watched me working at my desk for 2 minutes before anyone alerted me to being on the call.”

Jim Scheidegger - Upper School Math Teacher
A Success: "After finishing my first instructional video for my Algebra 1 class on ScreenCastify with attached iPad using Notability, I realize how cool it is. I am definitely a convert!" 

Kimberly Fischer - Middle School English Teacher 
A Success: "I now know how to use Notability and project my iPad screen to my computer...it has been life changing! Also, Crystal showed our Grade 6 Team how to annotate on the assignments in Google Classroom. Also, I'm using SWANK to share the movie version of The Giver with my class when we're finished reading. It has been a very exciting week!"
 
Nathalie Young - Middle School Spanish Teacher 
A Success: I missed playing quick, fun games with my dry erase board for vocabulary practice until I found a cool activity on Seesaw that lets the kids draw and share. We call it "online pictionary!”
A Lesson Learned: "Using Seesaw activities that are created and shared by other teachers saved me time and proved to be valuable learning tools for my students." 
 
Jane Smalling - Lower School Grade 3 Teacher 
A Success: “The theme for a particular morning meeting was to bring your pet or your favorite stuffed animal to the meeting It was wonderful to see that this outlet allowed the students to share their pets with their peers and teachers. The joy and excitement was priceless. So often as the teachers we heard so much about their pets, and now we were able to take part in the students' excitement.”
A Lesson Learned: “Distance learning is a journey. It requires time and patience. You can learn so much about technology and the various programs despite your lack of exposure or knowledge. It opened up a new world for student involvement when teaching gets back to normal.”

Aruanda Yowell - Lower School Grade 5 Teacher 
A Success: "I have enjoyed learning more about the student's using the Flipgrid program. This program has allowed the students to share more often about themselves since it's a timed recording. This prevents students from rambling too much or not being sure what they want to share. I've also really enjoyed pushing myself to learn new technology to keep the students engaged during distance learning. If students are bored, they aren't engaged, if they aren't engaged, they don't pay attention, if they don't pay attention they don't learn. Therefore I feel responsible for providing engaging and interactive lessons."
A Lesson Learned: "I have learned the importance of keeping lessons short and sweet. I've also learned that most students are the same during distance learning as they are in the classroom. I have learned the challenges of being unable to feed off the students, and gauge their understanding during distance learning."

Humor Became a Vehicle for Connection & Community Building
 
In the midst of the pandemic, one of the shared challenges we all faced was being unable to connect with fellow Scots in person. We missed getting a familiar wave from security guards in carline, a high five from teachers, and participating in the cheer of “Go Scots” from the sidelines.

In light of the loss of these physical connection points on campus, Scots embraced moments of humor in the virtual environment as a way to enhance bonding and togetherness. Scots shared moments of humor in failed attempts to log on and in gaffs with the mute button. They embraced the unexpected in the new shared digital space with smiles and giggles. From a willingness to laugh with one another, Scots were able to find comfort and strength in common vulnerabilities. 
 
Jane Smalling - Lower School Grade 3 Teacher 
A Funny Anecdote: “When we ask a student to present on a Google Meet, they forget to select a new tab. They soon discover that they left the meet. Their reactions are priceless. It's often shared that this also happens to their teachers.”

Aruanda Yowell - Lower School Grade 5 Teacher 
A Funny Anecdote: “We asked a student why their camera was off, they said it had to be, we asked why, and they said because they were going to the bathroom. It was a good laugh for the day."

Kimberly Fischer - Middle School English Teacher 
A Funny Anecdote: “My youngest (4 yo) had a complete tantrum during one of my classes and nearly knocked down my door.  Kids thought it was hysterical...me, not so much.”
 
Dawn Jones - Lower School Academic Technology Coach 
A Funny Anecdote: “In the middle of our first virtual faculty meeting, at the exact time it was my time to present some important notes about Seesaw and Google Meet, my son ignored the RED sign that says “Do Not Disturb Mommy she is in a meeting,” to ask me to put his Ninja costume and refused to go away unless I helped him. So, I helped the 4 year old put the Ninja costume on while I gave my announcements.”

Division Heads Show Pride for Teaching Excellence in the Virtual Environment 
 
Everything we do at SA is like a jigsaw puzzle. And in the virtual environment, it became even more clear how essential it is that teachers, students, and parents work in concert to fit essential pieces together. From the teacher filming a video lesson, a student sharing their screen with classmates, or a member of our icare staff solving access problems remotely - there are so many ways Scots pulled together to make the pieces fit. 
 
Saint Andrew’s divisional leaders share words of applause and appreciation for the ways in which teachers demonstrated excellence in the virtual environment. 
 
 
Gregg Good - Head of Upper School
“I am so proud of our Upper School teachers not only because of the tremendous flexibility and skill they demonstrated in terms of curriculum, instruction and assessment, but also because of the compassion and empathy they demonstrated toward their students. Our faculty truly put the social and emotional health of the SAS community at the forefront of their planning and delivery of distance learning.” 

Ann Hayes - Head of Middle School
“Middle School faculty already had the basics for success with their use of Google Classroom and our learning management system, MySA, but as we shifted fully to a virtual environment they used creative solutions to engage students in instruction and dialogue.  Each week, they reflected and improved, eager to share and learn new strategies from colleagues. Our students felt connected and engaged and the feedback from our families was positive.”

Angela Kopels - Head of Lower School
“Our teachers quickly adapted and worked hard during distance learning to make this distance learning time an interactive experience for our students and families. They were there to provide support for the students as much as our families. Teachers also continued to provide new and enriching materials to continue to extend student learning. Although interactions were through a computer screen, they were still personal. It was a community effort, especially for our youngest learners.”
 
“All of our teachers very quickly learned how to utilize programs we already used in a different way. For example, Seesaw, a program that we use as an electronic portfolio, allowed us to very quickly adapt it as a method for user-friendly content and interactive lesson delivery for our students.  It allowed teachers to continue with teaching and learning during distance learning.”
 
Though our campus was closed in March, April and May, teachers demonstrated their vital role in making educational experiences at SA whole and united. They showed an openness to change, a willingness to take risks, and a desire to create innovative educational opportunities in the new virtual learning landscape. 

Saint Andrew’s School is proud of its faculty for delivering a distance learning experience with the same passion they bring to the regular classroom and for showing an inspired commitment to teaching excellence in the new virtual landscape in mind, body, and spirit. 
 
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A non-profit, independent, co-educational school for grades Pre-K - 12, Saint Andrew's School is a private day and boarding school located in Boca Raton, educating the best students from across Palm Beach County, Florida, the United States, and throughout the world in the Episcopal tradition.
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