Bridging the Divide:
Distance Learning Video Series
In the spring of 2020, after schools announced the decision to finish the school year via distance learning, ACOE reached out to teachers across Alameda County to find how they were bridging the divide to connect with their students and provide instruction.
The teachers gave endearing, candid and loving responses. We are so grateful to each educator for their time and work, and we are proud to share their perspectives on what the unprecedented moment meant for those working in education, students and families, and the wider community.
We extend our appreciation to everyone who supported students during school campus closures – family members, educators, child nutrition professionals, custodial staff, child care providers, health care workers, and so many others. Thank you for your service to our young people.
Jamie Black Phillips knew that she wanted to provide learning opportunities for her students that were convenient for families to access during distance learning. The kindergarten teacher from Fremont Unified School District created a YouTube channel, Missus Phillips' Camp Kindergarten, where she could post lessons, like a unit on insects that showed the life cycle of a butterfly, culminating in one of her most popular videos featuring Mrs. Phillips dressed as a butterfly.
After 100 videos posted for her students, Mrs. Phillips reported that she won’t shy away from technology as a teaching tool anymore.
ACOE met Precious James, a 4th and 5th grade teacher in Oakland Unified School District, when she was named one of OUSD's 2019 Teachers of the Year. She was committed to guiding every student to gain a strong belief in themselves.
Her commitment to her students did not skip a beat when schools moved to distance learning. She found how to reach her students and bridge the divide that has widened for her students who didn't have consistent access to technology.
Ms. James made it work, and so did her students—in fact, they were excited to learn!
Kathy Maier, a music teacher from San Leandro Unified School District and SLUSD's 2019 Teacher of the Year, shared how this experience is deepening her appreciation for the relationships and collaborative learning built in the classroom.
Robin Wallace-London focused on the perks of distance learning. She found that her students at Fruitvale Academy, an ACOE-operated school for pregnant and parenting students, were able to stay connected even during the period they would typically be out of the classroom for maternity leave.
The tools and structures for meaningful distance learning weren’t in place from the beginning. Ms. Wallace-London says researching the resources available to meet the needs of teachers and students is a worthwhile investment, as we'll use these skills in the future, too.
Veronica Aguilar is a teacher at ACOE's Burke Academy, a county school for pregnant and parenting students. Many of her students navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning with formidable challenges. She stepped into their reality and to see how she could support them.
Catherine Brown is a 1st grade teacher in Dublin Unified School District and was the 2018 DUSD Teacher of the Year.
In addressing the challenges of distance learning, she offered her students creative learning opportunities. By finding a new way to run her classroom, she modeled resilience for her students. View the bonus video featuring Mrs. Brown’s globetrotting guinea pig!
Tontra Love is a transitional kindergarten teacher in Oakland Unified School District and was one of OUSD's 2019 Teachers of the Year. She stretched herself to adapt to distance instruction for her students, using new tools and gaining skills along the way.
Her perspective on what could be gained while facing the challenges of distance learning – such as adjusting priorities,and trying to find balance – was welcome. Ms. Love emphasized the opportunity to connect with our children and their education in a new way.
Jim Armstrong teaches students at the ACOE-operated Bridge Academy, an independent study program. The pandemic brought opportunities to find new tools and strengthen strategies to maintain a connection with students he doesn’t see every day. His students have really stepped up, prioritizing virtual meetings with Mr. Armstrong in their busy lives to keep up with schoolwork.
Mr. Armstrong values connection, whether with students or his broader community. He decided to buy a rocking chair for his front porch, a great place to chat with neighbors and make connections that are more important than ever.