What teachers learned from year of distance learning

Distance learning has created a real divide between students and their teachers. It has been a tough year, but also a time for teachers to learn how to bridge that gap and make social distancing more social.
Jasmon Jackson teaches math and science to 6th graders in Oakland.
"We talk about music, we talk about movies, let's talk about math," she said.
She says building relationships with her students makes all the difference.
"I've gotten to know more about the kids because I'm in their environment," Jackson said said. "So, I've gotten to meet pets and family members. I get to see messy rooms."  
Another teacher getting to know her students on a new level is Ramona Quezada-Martinez. She's a bilingual 4th grade teacher in Hayward. 
One of the biggest continuing challenges is getting supplies to students who need them, she said.
"Once a month, I meet them in the park in their neighborhood with giveaways and supplies," Quezada-Martinez said. "Sometimes I have to drive to their houses, whatever the case may be." 

She just wants to make sure the kids have what they need for school. Ms. Martinez, as her students call her, says the other big hurdle is keeping the kids engaged and in class, making sure they keep their cameras on during Zoom learning.
"I bribe them," she says laughing, "I take pictures throughout the week, and then at the end of the week I have a raffle and they can either get a pizza or slime or different things." 
That's if she can actually see them on the computer during class.

Jackson also keeps the kids engaged and those cameras on by playing I-Spy games with her students, to find hidden items in their homes.
Marin County Teacher of the Year, Cindy Evans, has also had to get creative to keep her students engaged. She teaches special education classes and distance learning meant parents and caregivers had to get more involved to help with technology at home. 
She usually brings in yoga instructors, activity leaders and visits from dogs. But this year, like so many other things, had to be online. 
Evans is now back in the classroom and appreciates the lessons learned, insiide and outside of the Zoom classroom. 
"We have all learned from this past year and we are getting children back into school safely and we will survive this and become better people," she said.
That's a sentiment echoed by many of us around the Bay Area, including Jackson.

"Every challenge, every trouble we go through builds strength and endurance," she said. "We are building strong students who are going to be able to tackle any situation in their adult and educational career."