MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia teachers have been using remote online instruction for a couple months now, but some were more prepared than others. In this story, 12 News asked teachers from different grade levels about their challenges and how they overcame them.
One major problem across the state was the lack of internet access. In some households, no internet might be a monetary decision, but in others, access to fast internet isn’t available in their area. For students who did not have access to internet, WiFi hotspots became available at school parking lots.
Lack of device
While a majority of West Virginia classrooms offer one-to-one devices that kids can take home, kids at lower grade levels who did not get to take their device home struggled to use a parent’s cell phone, or teachers mailed out worksheet packets.
“I do have a student in the homeless shelter,” said Amber Nichols, Kindergarten Teacher at Eastwood Elementary, “so that’s been really hard to be able to meet with him because his parents don’t have a device. They were just given a device a few weeks ago by the homeless shelter, so that’s been a saving grace for us…He doesn’t get to attend our class Zoom meetings with that device, but I can message him back and forth.”
Working from home in any capacity can be stressful because it’s hard to know when to take a break. Both teachers and students said they found it hard to unplug after the day was over.
“I sat at my computer for eight, nine, ten hours afraid to leave it, every day of the week, just not taking a break because as soon as the students were messaging, you could hear it in the tone of their text that they were panicked because they were not sure exactly what to do,” said Danyelle Schoonmaker, Science Teacher at South Harrison Middle School, about the first week of online classes, “We’re used to a bell schedule. We’re so associated with taking our breaks when the bell rings.”
The technology learning curve has been a challenge for both students and teachers, but all the teachers talked to for this story said it helped strengthen their ability to add technology to the classroom.
“It helped a lot of teachers who were a little timid with using technology. They had no other choice, so they got in and started doing it,” said DeAnn Hartshorn, Principal of Eastwood Elementary, “and they found that it wasn’t as hard as they thought it was, and I think it’s only going to make us better so that when we do get to come back to our building, we’re going to have this whole other realm of teaching that I’m excited to see what’s going to happen with it.”