Above And Beyond: Long Island Teachers Step Up During Coronavirus 

Screenshots of Courtney Eisenzapf and Danielle Luke conducting technology training sessions using Google Meet. (Contributed photos)

Long Island’s teachers are adapting to a new normal. Teaching via virtual classrooms has no doubt been a challenge, but in the face of adversity educators are stepping up to the plate to continue to provide children with quality education and bring a bright spot in their day. 

Courtney Eisenzapf, secondary instructional technology specialist at Wantagh Middle School and Wantagh High School, and Danielle Luke, elementary instructional technology specialist at Forest Lake Elementary, Wantagh Elementary and Mandalay Elementary are among the teachers on Long Island who are going above and beyond for their students. Anton Media Group caught up with them to find out what education looks like during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 What has it been like to teach children remotely? 

It has most definitely been an adjustment for all but we are all doing our best to provide a sense of normalcy for students and their families during this time of uncertainty.

What technology are you using to teach? 

Wantagh School District uses the Google platform to facilitate most of the virtual classroom online learning. In addition to Google’s extensive list of apps (Docs, Slides, Forms, Sheets, Keep, etc.), teachers are using Google Meet to conduct live and recorded sessions for teacher to student learning, collaborating with colleagues, multiple technology training sessions held by both of us, faculty meetings, and a variety of check in sessions with students frequently. We have also been integrating FlipGrid, Screencastify, Kahoot and Quizizz into various teachers virtual classrooms. 

  How many hours are you teaching a day? Do you follow a structured lesson plan? 

As the instructional technology specialists, we worked as much as possible to ensure seamless integration for many of our staff and to assist with getting virtual classrooms set up. During these challenging circumstances, teachers have been tasked with providing a balanced approach to learning. Teachers are creating windows of time to be available during the school day. Assignments in various formats are being created for students to continue learning online and interact with their teachers.

What has been the most challenging part? 

The most challenging part for us thus far has been troubleshooting for our teachers, students and parents across multiple device platforms, which include Chromebooks, iPads, laptops, mobile phones and personal home computers. The variety of devices that our community uses sometimes makes it challenging for us to understand where and what their technological issue is. It can also be difficult for us to troubleshoot issues when we cannot see what the teacher, student or parent is experiencing on their device. To overcome this, we have found communicating through email, Google Meet and Chrome Remote Desktop to be our most helpful tools when assisting our teachers. 

What has been the bright spot? Is there any good coming out of this? 

For our department, having every teacher using the Google suite of apps allows those staff members exposure to the advantages of this technology, as well as the multitude of other technology resources that, once back into our real classrooms, can allow for a more integrated approach to using the technology on a more consistent basis during their teaching days. 

What have you been doing to help students during this time? 

To help students during this time, we have been creating interactive tutorials with a program called iorad to assist students in submitting assignments through Google Classroom, signing into their email (students in grades 6-12), watching educational videos in Google Classroom, submitting Flipgrid videos to their teacher and many more. These tutorials are posted in one of our Google Classrooms called Interactive Tutorials. This classroom was shared with all of our instructional staff on both the elementary and secondary level. Teachers are able to share the links to our tutorials in their own Google Classrooms to provide assistance to their students and parents in time of need. 

Do you think virtual classrooms will be helpful after the pandemic ends? Do you think you’ll continue to use it in some capacity, such as snow days? 

We feel that virtual classrooms are a huge part of the future of education. To have everything available for students in one place and to communicate with a student at the press of a button is life-changing. We hope that the power of technology has transformed education during this challenging time, and will continue to move us forward once we return to the classroom. Educators have been called upon to change the face of education in the best way possible; learning new tools and applications on demand and continuing to teach their students in such an unsettling time in our lives. It has been truly remarkable to see all of the creative and innovative ways teachers have been able to continuously provide a valuable education to their students. 

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know? 

Never underestimate the role of teacher and their student’s ability to adapt and learn. 

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Cyndi Zaweski
Cyndi Zaweski is the editor of Anton Media Group's special sections.

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