The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and that means educators across the globe are still finding inventive and innovative ways to support and teach students in classrooms, during hybrid instruction, and in virtual settings.
Never before have educators been challenged and tested as they were, beginning in March 2020 and up until today, and never before has their resilience been more apparent. Administrators, technology leaders, classroom teachers, and educators in all roles have persevered as they taught each and every one of their students during a global pandemic.
Here, eSchool News highlights the Taylor School District–one of its K-12 Hero Awards finalists. Keep reading to discover how this district keeps learning going in the middle of a global pandemic.
Nominee: Taylor School District
Nominated by: Trox
What makes this nominee a hero?
The Taylor School District, in the Michigan town of the same name, prides itself on its vision of being the innovative destination district where ALL succeed. Nearly 5,800 students attend classes at one of the district’s eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and high school.
The district’s staff is and always has been dedicated to learning and using technology in the classroom, according to Tracy Carroll, a School Improvement Coordinator who is part of a team of four supporting pre-K through 12th-grade teachers and school staff members with professional development and best practices to increase student achievement.
But nothing could have sped up the district’s adoption of technology-based education the way the spread of COVID-19 did. While the dream was to eventually become 1:1, that reality was a ways off pre-pandemic, Tracy explains. When the district’s schools were forced to transition to online learning in March 2020, access to devices was paramount. All the schools worked together to pool available laptops and iPads. At the time, the district was able to provide one device per family. By September 2020, every student had his or her own device for continued learning–due much in part from support from Tierney, a leading education technology provider that has delivered approximately 2,000 Chromebooks to the district since the start of the pandemic. The district has collaborated with Tierney, which merged with Trox in May 2021, on technology needs for six years.
While teachers, students, and parents struggled at the beginning, Tracy was struck by everyone’s willingness to adapt as quickly as possible to the new normal. “At first, we received countless Help Desk tickets and calls from parents, even grandparents. I even received calls directly from middle schoolers who were doing everything they could to get into Google Meet to join their class. I was just floored by everyone’s persistence.” Eventually, virtual learning became easier for educators and students alike. “It was really impressive to see how the students were helping each other and their teachers out. Our initial challenges really turned into successes,” Tracy says.
Google Classroom and professional development support from Tierney have helped staff members and students thrive in a remote learning environment. While the district is offering hybrid learning, about 30% of its students have since returned to campus, Tracy says. Teachers stay in communication with parents on a regular basis using a system called Remind – something that Tracy doesn’t think will ever go away. “The pandemic moved things faster and farther along for us. We’re now 1:1 and excited to see what’s on the horizon in terms of technology adoption.”
One key takeaway? Tracy says students learned more soft skills in the span of a year that would otherwise take them so much longer. “We keep hearing about learning loss, but our students learned how to use new technology, handle glitches, and take responsibility for their own education. When they return, we’ll meet them where they are at academically but for now, let’s celebrate how much they’ve achieved against all the odds.”