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Teachers and Students in Imperial Valley Adapt to Distance Learning Challenges

By: Mario Conde, Reporter

There is no excuse to stop learning and continuing to get an education, more so now as technology can unite a teacher and a student with just one click on the computer.

The Imperial County Office of Education announced the extension of school facility closures through the remainder of the school year due to the COVID-19 threat.  While that meant that school facilities won’t be open for students, the school year is not over.

Educators across Imperial County have switched to distance learning to continue being in contact with their students. It’s been a hard transition for everyone but they have been able to adapt.

Alicia Calles, a 2nd-grade teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School in El Centro, California, shared her experience working with her students online.

“When all of this started and the Coronavirus was spreading, I didn’t touch the subject since they are little and didn’t want to worry them,” Calles said. “One day they started talking about it and I paid attention to them. I told them not to worry since we have good doctors in the United States and in the world that are fighting the virus,”

The announcement by the Dioceses of San Diego that schools were going to be suspended came suddenly minutes before the end of the school day.

“It was announced that the school was going to close and it broke my heart seeing my students cry. I didn’t have time to explain anything since we only had 20 minutes before the end of the school day. We did one last prayer and said goodbye to them with the fear of not knowing if I would see them again,” Calles recalled.

As teachers and students are adapting to this new way of learning, there are ways of communicating thanks to platforms such as Zoom that allows video conferencing meetings to take place.

“My experience, like many of colleagues, has been mixed,” said Haydee Rodriguez, a Central Union High School AVID Coordinator, Success 101, and Journalism teacher. “I miss my students, my colleagues-the camaraderie of being at school. At school, I’d have very deep discussions, especially with students in my journalism class and it is hard to do that with technology,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the transition has been shocking but the most important objective is to make sure they reach every student and provide them with opportunities to learn and make sure they have what they need. Her curriculum includes inquiry, writing, reflection and especially giving the students a forum to process what is happening and to come to terms with what has changed.

“I’ve had students work on video and connect that way. Project-based learning is always a way to go to give students the chance to think deeply about what is happening in their lives, the impact of this pandemic, and so that they have something to look forward to,” Rodriguez added.

The students at St. Mary’s are also using Zoom to continue their education so they don’t fall behind.

“Thank God we a lot of programs that allow us to continue with their schooling and I was able to see their faces again,” Calles said.

Calles said her students are fascinated with Zoom and the programs they use from home. One of the assignments she gave was to record a video and answer what they like and didn’t like about virtual learning. Most of them said they like doing work on the computer but miss seeing their friends and their teacher in person.

“I’m very proud of my class because their parents are very involved in their children’s work,” Calles said.

The school closures are also affecting the seniors of the Class of 2020 who will not walk on graduation day with their diploma. However, most of them have already been accepted to a university and know where they are going after high school.

“Yes, they’re sad, but they also accept that sheltering-in-place is inevitable. Some of them are bored, struggling in other ways but they know that we’re here for them,” Rodriguez said.

During these troubled times, the role of teachers is important not only to look after their students but also to motivate them. Teachers continue to work and prepare lessons that will help their students in the years to come.

“Every time that I turn on my computer in the morning, I ask God to give me the right words so I can transmit to them that everything will be better soon,” Calles said.

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