Discover how a middle school teacher tackles online learning in a way to keep students engaged and thriving

Staying Connected During COVID-19 [Teacher Spotlight]: Dr. Kathryn Sampilo-Wilson

Discover how a middle school teacher tackles online learning in a way to keep students engaged and thriving

In partnership with eSchool News, Illuminate Education is spotlighting teachers in a series recognizing educators, the way they have moved instruction online during COVID-19, and how they have prioritized the needs of their students.

Dr. Kathryn Sampilo-Wilson
6th Grade Teacher
Buena Park School District

“We have to create a program that enables students to thrive and grow, to engage students and make them feel loved.”

What drives your passion for teaching?

My passion for teaching is driven by my students and families. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher for that reason. I teach at a Title 1 elementary school, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is a challenge, but those intrinsic rewards that you get when you help a student and they have that “a-ha” moment makes it all worth it. It’s not only about the academics—it’s about the impact that you have on them and their lives. You never know if you’re the only smile that they see that day or if you are the only hug that they get. That’s why you do it—the kids.

What was the transition to remote learning like for your school?

On March 13th, we had a feeling that the schools would definitely be closing based on what was being spread all over the media. Just in case, I prepped my kids and had them take home their belongings, a novel, and anything else they may need. The closure wasn’t announced to teachers until right before dismissal, so it was a bit chaotic for teachers. We weren’t given the green light to inform our students, therefore we were in limbo.

Related content: A teacher learns that online learning requires flexibility and patience

Over the weekend, we were still unsure of what next steps would include. Emergency staff meetings were held to discuss district directives and then it was go time. We had one day to plan, prepare, and compile three weeks of hard-copy lessons and activities to send home to families. The next day, I spent hours on the phone collaborating with my colleague trying to develop a remote learning program for our 6th graders that would be more than just busy work. A plethora of professional development opportunities for various distance learning platforms was offered by the district TOSAs, and teachers were thrown into an abyss of options and had to make some snap decisions. Anxiety and stress were at very high levels. Our principal and school secretary had to take on a lot of the responsibilities such as photocopying and prepping everything because people were scared–not just of the abrupt change, but also about their own health.

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