With the closure of all schools in Ohio because of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers everywhere have had to adapt to new ways to teach all subjects and all grades. Locally, teachers have adapted as best as they can to this “new” way of educating all students.

For example, Defiance third-grade teacher Erica Robarge has used local landmarks to help with her history classes. After reading a book on the history of Defiance, she invented a scavenger hunt using GooseChase for her students to find landmarks in the book.

“Teaching online was a bit of a transition,” admitted Robarge. “I would consider myself pretty tech savvy, as I’ve used Google Classroom, and many of the programs I was assigning in my classroom already. “My biggest obstacle was finding out what a good balance was of what should be expected for the work load for my students and how best to try to reach them and get them to practice what I was assigning.”

The school closures and move to online learning came at a time in the school year when teachers were planning for something else.

“This spring has been the most challenging experience I have ever come across in my 12 years of teaching,” said Alyssa Saylor, a junior high teacher at Antwerp. “Typically, the spring is very predictable; state testing, fun activities and experiences with my students, TinCaps reward baseball game and a celebration. This spring has been anything but predictable.”

As they have done time and time again, local teachers have found ways to adapt and have mastered the art of online instruction.

“My students have adapted very well,” mentioned Saylor. “The first three weeks, students had work that we sent with them on our last day together, March 16. Once things changed, things were extended, we had to quickly regroup. Luckily, I had already been using Google Classroom throughout the school year with my students, as well as other online applications such as Readworks and IXL. Messages were sent out to our parents via Honeywell letting them know how teachers planned to continue teaching and we marched forward.”

It has been a struggle for all students, even older students at the high school level.

“It’s definitely a unique situation,” said Kyle Bostater, a high school english teacher at Four County Career Center. “Every teacher in the state of Ohio is learning new methods of teaching. For me, it wasn’t difficult for online teaching because of our online learning.”

Teachers at Four County Career Center have utilized online learning for a while, simply because of the nature of the school.

“My entire class was on Canvas,” said Bostater. “They were already taught to use that online teaching platform.

“At the high school level, we were already at one-to-one,” Bostater said, talking about devices students use in the classroom. “They can all bring their own devices at Four County.”

Four County teachers are also in a unique situation because their students — many of whom are in school for specific programs — have been deemed essential workers.

“A lot of our kids have been deemed essential workers,” said Bostater. “A lot of them have been working 40-hour work weeks, plus they do their school work.”

All teachers can agree the students have caught on.

“My kids have done a great job,” said Robarge. “Some work in the morning, some in the afternoon and some in the evening. Third-graders are gaining their independence, but they still need oversight so it really depends on when their parents can assist. I know some of them are working without assistance and are still doing well.”

The hardest part has been teaching kids about what happens outside of a classroom, like when rec softball is cancelled or a pool can not be opened.

“I think that is the hardest part of this,” mentioned Robarge. “During the summer, they still get to see their friends at ball or at the pool. But with COVID they can’t.”

Most teachers know things will change and classrooms — either in a school or at home — will look different.

“I have mixed feelings about the fall,” admitted Robarge. “I can’t imagine trying to teach online without having met my students and getting to know them and their needs. However, I know that safety is a key issue. School will probably not look the same as it did earlier this spring. I anticipate more cleaning and washing, not sharing of supplies and more spaced out. Teachers are masters of flexibility and whatever the fall looks like, I am sure my colleagues will do their best to put students and their safety first.”

“To be honest, I want to go back to normal,” stated Saylor. “To have our normal school routine and schedules. I know that this is a lofty hope, but this is what I would like to see in the fall. Teaching the way we have been is doable, but not ideal. Nothing can replace the in-person magic that takes place in the classroom.”

“I definitely want to get back into a classroom,” said Bostater. “I got into education to build relationships. I miss that interaction.”

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