The shift to distance learning was challenging for everyone, but it was especially difficult for special needs students, who often rely on hands-on instruction.
When the pandemic closed our schools, our Special Education teachers rolled up their sleeves and got to work finding ways to help their students, even when they couldn’t be in the same room with them.
Angela Martin has been teaching for more than 20 years, and she has spent the last year and a half working with Special Education students at Centennial Elementary.
Martin said many families went into “survival mode” last year when COVID-19 forced schools around the world to quickly move from in-person to virtual learning. She immediately began brainstorming creative ways to teach online, including delivering writing and art through stop-motion animation, leading virtual field trips to the Egyptian pyramids, and answering math problems while working with Legos.
“I realized that success and growth could still be achieved if families and educators would think a little outside their comfort zone,” she said. “The most success was seen where parents kept lines of communication open, asked for help, and were willing to try new ideas.”
“Computer technology at its best cannot establish the classroom community like a teacher can in the first week of in-person learning.”
As time went on and everyone began to acclimate to this strange new world, Martin said she began to see amazing success stories from both Special Education teachers and students.
“Teachers and students have shown extraordinary resilience during this difficult time,” she said. “Teachers have enhanced their current differentiated instruction practices and students have learned to do things that would never have been necessary or expected before.”
Even before our district began transitioning back to school using a hybrid learning model, Martin and other Special Education teachers were already working with a limited number of students in their Resource Rooms. She said being able to work one-on-one with her students was beneficial for both teachers and students.
“Teachers miss the face-to-face interactions and seeing that ‘ah ha’ moment when a student finally understands,” she said. “Teachers want to develop relationships, provide a stable environment for learning, and make children feel safe and appreciated. Computer technology at its best cannot establish the classroom community like a teacher can in the first week of in-person learning.”