Teachers learning to adapt to distance learning just like students

Joanne Miller’s fourth grade class has long been known as the "kindness squad" of Deltona’s Pride Elementary; the squad often seen at the school’s entrance giving energetic welcomes to their fellow students.

That energy is a big part of Miss Miller’s approach to teaching as she said she treats her classroom like a stage for her enthusiastic students.  The stage though, has shrunk to her small home office these days where her webcam is her daily link to those students.

"So I have my large dry erase board and my small dry erase board,” said Miller, giving a quick tour of the small teaching space. "Of course, I bring my disco ball with me, because we have to have a party at all times."

Like all teachers right now, Miller is working with what she’s got. As COVID-19 shutters schools everywhere, educators, like all of us, are having to adjust their daily approach to the job.

Miller said her days start with large Zoom calls with her entire class and then move into smaller video calls and one-on-ones with students as they need guidance. Really, she said, her virtual office hours are basically 24 hours a day as she goes the extra mile to help her students keep up as they learn from home.

"We're taking it slow, so it's not stressful on everyone,” she said.

Although Miller says in her 24 years as a Volusia County educator, she’s never dealt with a challenge on the same level as distance learning. Curriculums have had to adjust for the new way of working and teachers have had to adjust to reach their kids without actually being in the same room as them every day.

"I've always liked technology, but of course, not as much now,” Miller joked.

So teachers everywhere are going the extra mile right now. Social media lights up almost daily with some new creative way a teacher is trying to make this time special for their students.

Miller is no exception. The Volusia County teacher has converted her personal van into a social distancing book mobile. Each week, she fills the back of it with books and goes to each of her students’ homes so they can greet her through the window and pick out a new book to escape in for the week.

Miller and her fellow Pride teachers are also surprising students with signs on their lawns saying their teacher misses them, and she’s adding unique new activities to their learning days that the students can enjoy from home.

"Not seeing them all at one time, all as a class family is very difficult,” said Miller. "I have never been prouder to be a teacher than I am now. Every teacher has just stepped up to the plate and done phenomenal work."