California Educator

August/September 2021

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Page 46 of 75

during the pandemic: a curriculum course through UC San Diego and a master gardener course. Her experiences as a distance learner were like those of her own students. Smith says that her four-hour classes on Saturday mornings felt even longer, and engagement was difficult and tedious. Additionally, it was hard to be disciplined and motivated from behind a screen. She used these experiences to change the way she approached teaching virtually. "We need to have something every day where we are engaged to keep students interested and motivated," Smith says. Beth Traub, an engineering and computer sci- ence teacher at Pittsburg High School, says it had been 16 years since they had needed to study and write papers when they started a master's program in educa- tional leadership at Western Governors University last year. e " It was a hard decision to make. but for me it was modeling to my students what it means to persevere." —TAUNYA JACO, San Jose Teachers Association, on taking a leave of absence to focus on her doctorate demands of the self-driven, asynchronous program were rigor- ous, and Traub spent multiple hours a day studying, in addition to their teaching responsibilities, which also took more time in a distance learning environment. "I felt like I was always on the computer," Traub says. "One hour of classwork is two to three hours of work at home." e experience made Traub more empathetic to what their students were going through as distance learners, including being realistic about their time and distractions at home, and giving them grace at a time when they could probably use it. e weight of teaching and learning remotely at the same time was heavier than Traub expected, and it made them look at how they might better help support students during the unique time. "I underestimated the amount of stress I was under," says Traub, a member of Pittsburg Education Association. "e stress of teaching and learning made me feel perpetually stretched thin, underscoring the need for coping mechanisms and how much my students need to learn them. We need to explicitly teach how to manage their stress and workload." Gorgone, a member of Santa Ana Educators Association, com- pleted his NGSS certification with a course in culturally relevant pedagogy that explored using topics relevant to students' expe- riences to create more successful lessons. He says being apart from his students in distance learning made it difficult to build the connections needed to create a successful classroom experience. " My e x p e r i e n c e t a k i n g t h e c e r t i f i c a t i o n reminded me how important it is to really know students and find out what their lives are like." Taunya Jaco started a doctoral program in edu- cational leadership at San Jose State University in 2018, with the pandemic impacting her disserta- tion year. She had planned for two years to film educators in schools as part of a documentary film study about the creation of the Ethnic Stud- ies Model Curriculum, but shifted gears to Zoom interviews and archival footage when visiting Left: Taunya Jaco; below: Beth Traub 45 A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 21 Stephen Gorgone Continued on page 47

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