VAIL, Ariz. — Teaching for a total of seven years and virtually for three Beth Schimke, teaches middle and high school students in English and history.
Within the Vail Innovation Center, she says one of the big changes she and fellow teachers had to adapt to, due to the coronavirus pandemic, was class size.
“We absolutely have had a pretty good thing going for the last few years, it's been pretty run of the mill for us. I mean, we're always doing the online - kids are always just solely online. The things that are really different is we don't have any in person tutoring days anymore. So that's a little bit challenging. And we've had those kids that have been online solely for a long time, and they're doing really well, but the new kids that we have are doing fantastic too. So it's been a pretty decent transition for us,” said Schimke.
She says VIC has roughly 400 students enrolled in its online classes right now; double the amount they typically see year to year.
“We had a huge uptick in enrollment because like a lot of kids are nervous about being on campus. They were You know unsure about how the the regular campus schools are Going to do their virtual learning So a lot of a transition full time because they had that option,” said Schimke.
For someone who’s well-versed in online teaching, she recognizes the pros and cons for virtual platforms.
“Students can work at their own pace. It’s pretty much you login you start working. If you finish your activities for the day, you're done. So the online definitely gives them a lot of flexibility, they feel safe at home, especially during pandemic times. Some cons. I mean, there's less structure. So the kids that kind of have to you know make their own set guidelines, how they're going to do this that to have like a school setup and be prepared to To jump right in there and it can be really distracting,” said Schimke.
Another con: students missing immediate feedback from teachers; having to wait for the class time or for emails to be answered.
Schimke’s advice to teachers working virtually for the first time is to be patient, take one email at a time, and to personally connect with the students.
“You have to connect with your kids. Just like you're in a classroom, you have to build a connection. And if you don't build a connection, the kids are going to be less likely to work for you to communicate with you when they're having a problem,” said Schimke.
Due to the pandemic and the demand, VIC, what used to only enroll 6-12th grade, is now open for K-12.