After 23 years as an educator, Crystal McCoin, a third grade STEM teacher at Oakland Elementary, is trying something new – virtual teaching. Hundreds of CMCSS teachers are navigating the new world of CMCSS K-12 Virtual. For Ms. McCoin, she finds joy in teaching and watching her students’ excitement about learning.
“I have been teaching a long time and thought I had seen everything, but have definitely had to step out of my comfort zone,” she explains. “I am always willing to try new things to see if something works better and to help the students learn.”
This sentiment rings true for many virtual educators today. Educators are experts at creative thinking and our virtual teachers continue to rise to the challenge of engaging their students. From puppets to playing games, teachers at all levels aren’t afraid to try new things.
Everyone understands that trying something different is crucial to maintaining a relationship with students. McCoin says the biggest difference with virtual learning is you have to work harder to build relationships with students. During her Zoom instruction time, her eyes are continuously scanning the faces for anyone who may be distracted. Phrases that would be typical to any classroom setting such as, ‘are you okay’, ‘show me your pencils’, ‘let’s sit up tall’ are now mixed in with the newest repetitive phrase for teachers ‘make sure you’re on mute.’
Ms. McCoin does not miss any opportunity to share a smile or encouraging word, because she knows the importance of building a relationship. “You get to see a little of their personalities but not as you do in the classroom setting,” she said. She admits that there are times virtual may be a struggle but teachers should look to the opportunities as well, “I feel like we get so much more accomplished during small group time online.” However, she’s confident her students can excel in the virtual classroom.
Engaged parents and learning mentors are key to the success of virtual students. “Help your child be accountable,” she urged families. “Check and make sure they are completing the work and make sure you stay in contact with the teacher.”
Each grade level, and school, have adapted their instruction schedules to best fit the students’ needs. The average virtual teacher spends the first half of the day in live instruction. The rest of the day includes individual meetings, grading, and responding to emails.
“If you have questions, reach out to your teacher,” says Erin Hedrick, CMCSS K-12 Virtual administrator. “You can always reach out to the school as well.” While technology issues plagued the beginning of the year, CMCSS K-12 Virtual has hit its stride and continues to improve. “We always want constructive feedback from families. We’re all committed to student success; we share a common goal.”
Back in the classroom, McCoin takes on any challenge with a bright smile and positive energy moving through an online math lesson. Ms. McCoin’s passion for teaching will continue to make a lasting impact on her students, long after the lesson has ended. Her continued efforts have earned her recognition as the News Channel 2 Educator of the Week.