VAIL, Arizona – Teacher for a total of seven years and three years virtually Beth Schimke teaches English and history to middle school and high school students.
Within the Vail Innovation Center, she says one of the big changes she and her fellow teachers had to adapt to, due to the coronavirus pandemic, was class sizes.
“We’ve absolutely had one pretty good thing over the last few years, it’s been pretty commonplace for us. I mean, we’re still doing it online – the kids are still only online. What is really different is that we no longer have face-to-face tutoring days. So it’s a bit difficult. And we’ve had these kids who’ve only been online for a long time, and they’re doing great, but the new kids that we have are doing great too. So it was a pretty decent transition for us, ”said Schimke.
She says VIC currently has around 400 students enrolled in its online courses; double the amount they typically see from year to year.
“We’ve had a huge increase in registrations because, like a lot of kids, are nervous about being on campus. They weren’t sure how the regular schools on campus were going to do their virtual learning, so a lot of transitioning to full-time because they had that option, ”said Schimke.
For someone familiar with online education, she recognizes the pros and cons of virtual platforms.
“Students can work at their own pace. It’s pretty much you log on that you start to work. If you finish your activities for the day, you are done. So the line definitely gives them a lot of flexibility, they feel safe at home, especially during a pandemic. Some drawbacks. I mean, there is less structure. So the kids you need to know are setting their own guidelines, how they’re going to do it to have a school setup and be ready to jump right in there and that can be really fun, ”Schimke said. .
Another drawback: students lack immediate feedback from teachers; having to wait for class time or for responses to emails.
Schimke’s advice to first-time virtual teachers is to be patient, take one email at a time, and connect with students personally.
“You have to connect with your kids. Just like you are in a classroom, you need to make a connection. And if you don’t make the connection, the kids will be less likely to work for you to contact you when they have a problem, ”Schimke said.
Due to the pandemic and demand, the VIC, which was only enrolling Grades 6 to 12, is now open for Kindergarten to Grade 12.