Teachers share their COVID-19 distance learning experiences

Updated: Apr. 24, 2020 at 5:34 PM CDT
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(WAFB) - In a crowded parking lot, Emily Domaingue’s voice erupted from behind a medical mask.

“It’s good to see y’all!”

The joy in her voice tells the story of teacher who misses her students.

It's lunchtime in the small town of Brusly, and Domaingue is one of more than a half-dozen teachers helping distribute hot lunches to their students as they drive by.

“Hey girl! How you doing? I miss you!” Domaingue shouted as she leaned in to hand off a stack of Styrofoam boxes.

“I miss you too!” shouted the student in the back seat.

Emily Domaingue hands out food for students.
Emily Domaingue hands out food for students.(WAFB)

For Domaingue, it’s one of the few chances to see her students’ faces since schools shut down in March due to the coronavirus outbreak. She questions every student in every car.

“How y’all doing?” “Y’all been working out?”

These kids are more than students though.

“Family is everything,” she said. “I mean, we have our own families at home, but our school kids are our family.”

Domaingue is a physical education teacher and coach at Brusly Middle School. Three times a week, she challenges her students to online workouts: running, jumping, skipping, anything to keep active. She has also started an Instagram page (@wearebms2020) where her students can post their workouts and challenge her.

“They love keeping in touch,” Domaingue said. “Just getting that piece of you that they’re missing from school.”

When schools closed abruptly nearly two months ago, teachers did not see it as a vacation. They’re still worried about their students, and they’re doing whatever they can to stay connected and keep teaching, even if that means adding algebra to a freshman English class.

Numbers and variables pour from Taylor Hebert's laptop. Bewildered students scratch their heads and search for answers.

Many teachers have had to get creative when it comes to distance learning.
Many teachers have had to get creative when it comes to distance learning.(WAFB)

When all this started, Hebert merged one of her weekly English literature classes with those of two Brusly High math teachers. They fire questions in game show fashion at students tuned in on the Zoom meeting app just to change things up.

“They have things like TikTok, and Xbox,” Hebert said. “So it’s been a real challenge.”

She says her students are responding to her unconventional classes.

“One day, they went on a virtual field trip to find out how Shakespeare grew up, where he lived, what he went through.” Hebert said.

She has been stretching her creative muscles and she has found a few new ideas that will make it into next year’s curriculum.

Caneview’s Kacy Patin missed her pre-K classroom so much she moved some of it into her living room.

A make-shift calendar hangs near the fireplace. She has stacked crates of learning games and teaching tools next to the hearth, and Curiosity Kitty, her classroom puppet, sits on a shelf watching it all. Two days after the shutdown, Patin found a children’s story about why school was closed on the internet. She recorded herself reading it, then posted it on YouTube for her students.

Many teachers worry about their students as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Many teachers worry about their students as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.(WAFB)

She has been posting lessons almost every day, since.

“I just figured it would help teach better,” she said, “and it would give a sense of normalcy to my students because they can see all of our familiar faces.”

Patin uses her own children in the videos to teach her students about everything from why some people wear masks outside to healthy habits.

“This is my calling, is to do this,” she said.

Teachers around the state may be absent from the classroom, but wherever they are, be it a lunch line or a living room, teachers are missing their students, and they are doing what they can to make sure kids keep learning.

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