Going back to school. It’s one of those memories so indelibly instilled in our brains that no matter how many years go by, we can still vividly recall shopping for supplies and clothes, seeing friends we hadn’t seen for more than two months, meeting new teachers and, in some cases, being introduced to a new school and classmates.
For students, from preschool to graduate school, this year will mark a blip in creating those memories. It is just one of the myriad things that have been taken from us by the spread of COVID-19, though Leeron Tal Dvir doesn’t see it that way.
“I have heard so many parents focusing on what their kids will not be getting and what they will be missing,” said Tal Dvir, who served as executive director of Burbank’s Temple Emanu El and for eight years directed its Early Childhood Center. “Yes, it will be different and there will be change, but I look at it as change that can be a positive experience.”
Tal Dvir’s optimistic outlook has much to do with her decision to stare down the pandemic and establish Distance Learning Together Community, a new concept in the world of distance learning that will offer support to parents and give children the opportunity to be physically engaged with kids and adults other than their parents.
“As a single mother, I had to figure out what I was going to do as far as work while taking care of my kids, Micah, who is 10 and in 5th grade, and Liam, who is 6 and just going into 1st grade,” said Tal Dvir. “The more I thought about it, the more I knew I would have to come up with a job I could do from home.”
After a social media post led to a meeting via Zoom with local parents and educators who all had confusion, questions and concerns over how distance learning will actually work, Tal Dvir came up with an idea. She contacted a colleague, Rick Barclay, who has two decades of experience in public and charter school administration, and together they put together a program that will offer screened and COVID-tested “academic guides” who will come to homes and safely guide children from kindergarten to 6th grade (ages 5-12) through their online academic school day.
“Our program will help both parents and their children navigate the new world of distance learning,” said Tal Dvir. “Most schools will be having an online school day from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Students will need to be ‘in school’ during those hours, which will be challenging for parents who will have to make sure all the technical elements are working and that their child is in front of the computer. A parent will also need to be there to help their child focus, especially if they are young. That will be very difficult for those who have multiple children in different grades and at different schools, especially if they are also working from home.
“Our guides will step in to free up the parent and make it a fun and positive experience for the kids, helping them focus, listen, answer questions and get their assignments in on time.”
Beginning with a consultation, Tal Dvir plans on getting to know and access the needs of each parent and child. She will then assist them in creating an in-home learning environment, evaluate their outdoor space for extracurricular classes, and match them with the proper guide and resources to meet their needs.
Explaining the concept of her services as a hybrid that is neither tutoring nor babysitting, Tal Dvir said Distance Learning Together Community will benefit not only parents and students, but also many local educators who are out of work.
“We are currently hiring academic guides who are substitute teachers, early childhood educators, college students in a teaching program, tutors and camp counselors,” said Tal Dvir. “We will also offer referrals for services such as speech and occupational therapy, behavior coaching, and even support groups for parents.”
One of the things Tal Dvir is most excited about is that she will be offering after-school extracurricular arts and sports programs.
“I feel I’m in a unique position to offer this service to Burbank families,” she said. “By having run a preschool for the last nine years, I have built a relationship with the Burbank community. Because of that I have established relationships with arts and sports groups such as Burbank ShowCamp, Amazing Athletes and Cr8Space who will be offering after-school enrichment classes. It will be a way for kids to come together in safe, socially distanced pods and have fun while receiving the social and emotional development they will be missing in online distance learning.”
As for pricing, Tal Dvir said there will be various ranges that will depend on a parent’s needs and program selection. “There will be a minimum, but they can customize it to what works for them,” she said.
This school year may not be a traditional one, but Tal Dvir believes parents and students alike must get beyond what we they are missing out on and start dwelling on what they can have.
“I’m determined to be a part of a solution that makes distance learning a positive experience for everyone,” said Tal Dvir. “One in which wonderful times will be had and great memories will be made.”
For more information on Distance Learning Together Community, visit distancelearningtogether.com.
David Laurell may at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.