By Elizabeth Pomeroy
Special to The Outlook
“If you can read this,” said the bumper sticker, “thank a teacher!”
There could not be a better moment for us to commemorate Teacher Appreciation Week, because the faculty of PUSD schools are stepping up to unprecedented challenges in these times. As a 10-year board member of the Pasadena Unified School District and a teacher myself, I am truly impressed with the resilience and heart of our own teachers.
I asked our senior academic staff for details about new things our teachers are doing, now that their students must learn from home. I contacted Elizabeth Blanco, chief academic officer; Julianne Reynoso, assistant superintendent, Instructional Services; and Helen Chan Hill, director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development. Here’s some of what they told me:
Besides teaching lessons every day on distance-learning platforms for about 16,000 students from kindergarten through high school, teachers are hosting small group check-ins to give students more customized time, doing scavenger hunts, mini-lessons and more to keep learning fun and productive. They are also driving to the homes of students they haven’t been able to reach, calling and emailing to be sure all are accounted for. Teachers are delivering materials and books to families and troubleshooting problems of computer access, as well as putting in tech support requests for classes and individuals. It’s a big concern that all students must have equal opportunity to benefit from this remote education, even though home circumstances may differ. Teachers are on the front line for this awareness of equity.
For solidarity, they’ve sent “snail mail” letters for a fun surprise and posted creative videos showing their own adaptations to these new ways of life, so the kids can feel better about how strange and different things are now. There have been dance challenges posted, and teachers at Marshall Fundamental School portrayed themselves as “The Masked Singers.” Teachers have “paraded” past students’ homes to keep their spirits up. School library coordinators are hosting online story times to add to this outreach.
Several years ago a new staff member asked us, “What do you want your District to be known for?” I answered, “Creativity and innovation.” We are seeing these qualities shining now from our teachers every day. Helen Hill told me, they are “training and learning like crazy to figure out apps, tech and tools to make things easier for their kids. We’ve had incredible usage of video tutorials and trainings. Our teachers are working so hard!”
So that is some news from the front. The campuses of our 27 schools have gone quiet now, but the students and their teachers are still at work, although dispersed like a galaxy expanding outward. Much is to be learned from these times, beyond the classroom lessons.
If you are reading this tribute, thank your own teachers, and teachers you know. And let’s be thankful for these dedicated PUSD teachers who are turning crisis into opportunity. Onward!
Elizabeth Pomeroy is a PUSD board member.