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Three Roaring Fork School District Teachers' Hopes And Fears For Online Learning

Apr 22, 2020

Kendall Reiley, a fifth grade teacher at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, leads a "virtual hug" with her class online. The Roaring Fork School District began online learning this week since COVID-19 has shut the school's doors.
Credit Kendall Reiley / Glenwood Springs Elementary School

For Kendall Reiley, a fifth grade teacher at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, the first week of working virtually with students had her feeling, well, hopeful. 

“We already really try giving them a lot of empowerment over their own learning and a lot of leadership in their learning,” Reiley said. “This is going to be a really cool opportunity for them to do that and put that into place.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has closed the doors of all schools in Colorado, Reiley and the other teachers of the Roaring Fork School District are adjusting to their new normal of online learning. She said it has its pros and cons, and teachers are mostly figuring it out as they go. 

“We’ve been saying we’re building the airplane as we’re flying it,” Reiley said. 

She said her students are older and used to working independently, so online learning isn’t too difficult for them. But for teachers with younger students or students with learning disabilities, it can be challenging. 

Ali Luck, a special education teacher at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, works with third, fourth and fifth grade students who have learning disabilities or are on the autism spectrum. She said it will take extra time to make sure each student is given work that fits their needs and abilities and that can be done virtually. 

“The hope is that we are providing work that is accessible to them, that they can do and that’s at their ability level,” Luck said. 

Ali Luck, a special education teacher at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, poses with her students while eating ice cream. She works with students who have a learning disability or who are on the autism spectrum. During online learning, she said she is nervous that they will feel isolated since they can't work together in a classroom.
Credit Ali Luck / Glenwood Springs Elementary School

Luck is confident her students will be successful and finish the school year strong, but she’s worried that they will start feeling isolated and alone. 

“My students really appreciate time to be with students with like-needs and a place where they can feel successful and not isolated from their peers,” she said. “When kids can celebrate their successes together, that’s really powerful and I think when they’re at home doing their work alone, it feels different.”

Kimberly Pedersen, a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Basalt Elementary School, says her students are too young to do all their work on a computer. Pedersen said most of their work is printed in paper packets. Because of that, she said it’s all up to the students' parents to make sure they are staying on top of their work. 

“I work really hard to engage with my parents from the get-go at the beginning of the year. I’m hoping that has benefitted where we’re at now,” Pedersen said. 

Kimberly Pedersen, a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Basalt Elementary School, poses with some of her students. She said parents have to be heavily involved during online learning since her students are too young to use technology on their own.
Credit Kimberly Pedersen / Basalt Elementary School

She said she has established open communication with her student’s families and she can give advice to parents if they need it. 

“I’m not as nervous about me. I’m just nervous and worried about the families who I know are struggling right now,” Pedersen said. “I want to do whatever I can to help them and support them.”

Pedersen, Luck and Reiley said they are sad not to be with their students for the end of the school year, but they are doing everything they can to make sure their students feel connected, engaged and safe. 

“The most important thing that we can do is reduce isolation right now,” Reiley said.