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Academic Spotlight: Putting the Teacher’s Touch on Remote Learning

By Maggie Johnson

Educators have adapted heroically to this brave new world.

They’ve dramatically shifted the way they deliver content and take the pulse of student learning, knowing that we can’t guarantee that every student has the same workspace, technology, or level of adult support.

But planning for learning through the internet has presented teachers a second, formidable challenge: how do they breathe life into content and make it their own while teaching at a distance?

With the sudden avalanche of free digital resources, it’s just too easy and tempting to funnel assignments to students in the spirit of preventing an academic backslide, burying kids in a lifetime’s worth of log-ins. The cost of this—of learning at home becoming an isolating and transactional experience in a world that is already social distancing—is a steep one.

We are so proud of our teachers who protect against this by putting their unique touch on each and every assignment they send to students. Our own St. Athanasius principal, Jessica Aybar, lovingly calls this “adding the teacher touch”— for which we believe there is no proxy.

At Partnership Schools, we support our teachers in planning by providing a common framework of assignments that distills our core curriculum and curates the highest quality digital resources to complement it. But our teachers work strategically to ensure they combine our ingredients into a meal that their students are hungry for.

We believe that this is the crucial difference between schoolwork that is easily brushed aside by overly taxed families and those meaningful learning opportunities that call out to students to engage.

Here are just a few examples of how our teachers have added their own touch to academics at home:

Watch how this (adorable) kindergartener follows along with her teacher, Narlene Pachecho, as they practice sight words together. Narlene has carefully designed her video instruction to include pausing points for student responses, recreating the classroom experience as closely as she can from afar.

Alyssa Nardelli uses Loom to record herself expressively reading Treasure Island. While there is an abundance of storybook read-alouds on the internet, there is just no replacement for Ms. Nardelli live and in color.


Take a look at how Alyssa has also adapted network assignments in creating her own materials. She makes it visually irresistible to her fourth graders and is careful to provide useful reading “hints” that will steer student thinking in the right direction.

Finally, step into Sr. Anna Theresa Tran’s virtual math classroom as she leads her second graders through multiple ways of solving this word problem. We love how she welcomes students back to math class at the start of her video and even prompts them to read aloud and respond to her questions as she moves through the problem.

While this is just a snapshot of how our teachers have brought content to life, we hope it gives you a picture of how they’ve have made their presence felt while their students are learning outside the four walls of their classrooms.

Maggie Johnson is Vice President of Academics at Partnership Schools