Bethel teachers and students get ready for online learning

When COVID-19 abruptly ended in-person school last March, our educators did everything in their power to make the transition to online learning as seamless and consistent as possible. But it was a new and stressful time, and we had to make the most of a bad situation.

It soon became clear that the pandemic wasn’t going anywhere, so district leaders spent the summer working around the clock to ensure that when school started — either online or with a blended learning hybrid model — our students would have access to the best, most rigorous education available.

Bethel’s Teaching and Learning Department spent the summer working with teacher leaders to build professional development courses aimed at helping teachers bridge the gap between the traditional classroom and remote learning.

“Our goal is to prepare teachers with how to use our adopted curriculum in a remote learning classroom, while also providing the knowledge and skills that can be transferred to when students go back into the classroom,” said Mckenzie Walsh, Assistant Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning. “We spent time preparing teachers to make this transition to full time distance learning as rigorous and equitable as possible for Bethel students.”

Earlier this month our teachers attended Summer Institute to sharpen their skills in the areas of remote and blended learning. Among a host of other things, elementary teachers were given best practices for creating their own educational videos and how to best to utilize online office hours, as well as ways to build community with students in a virtual classroom.

Secondary teachers had access to their own professional development opportunities, with courses such as: Systems for Remote and Blended Teaching, Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Student Engagement, Data-Driven Instruction in Remote and Blended Environments, and Social Emotional Learning, Equity, and Meeting the Needs of all Learners.

It was a lot of work, but our teachers were up for the challenge and are now ready to put their new knowledge to work in the virtual classroom.

“(The courses) provided guidance to help me think about what I’ve done in the classroom that works and translate that over to distance learning,” said Frontier Middle School teacher Kim Dewey. “The benefits for all to provide structure and meaning during our 90 minute periods of learning. (We got) exposure to some platforms we can use to help kids succeed; feel motivated and engaged!”

School starts on September 3.