A Team Approach: Revere Teachers Are Working Hard to Deliver a Sound Education

Under the unprecedented situation of a global pandemic, Revere teachers are delivering the educational experience that has made the Revere school system a national model for urban cities in America.

It is not an easy assignment. Nothing can replace the daily, teacher-to-student interaction of a classroom, the shared goals of students learning together side-by-side, the joy of conversing in the school cafeteria during lunch, or a teacher stating simply to his/her students, “Have a great weekend” at the conclusion of the school day on a Friday.

The fifth-grade teaching team at the Whelan Elementary School is symbolic of what’s happening across the city. The teachers were ready to work in an online instruction format from the very first day school was postponed. They are dedicated, caring, professionals who are preparing their students for their transition to middle school.

Lenore DiLiegro, Mari Johnson, Janelle Sutherland, Amanda MacDonald, Katelyn Cochrane, and Meaghan DeSoto bring a combined 60 years of teaching experience to the classroom. They are the Whelan School fifth-grade “dream team” – rising to the occasion amidst a crisis that no one could have predicted when the school year began with such hope and optimism last August.

But teaching they are and the students are being engaged in new lessons and new assignments, Supt. of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly is understandably proud of what’s happening at the Whelan.

“We’re doing it as a team – we’re working together,” said DiLiegro, a science and social studies teacher with 28 years of experience in education. “The students are getting their lessons every day on Zoom. We started on March 15 and sat together and developed a lesson plan and talked about the way we were going to deliver it.”

And the teachers have delivered big time – to the heartfelt appreciation of their students and their parents.

The Journal presented questions to Whelan’s fifth grade teachers about teaching in a virtual classroom. Following are their responses:

Lenore DiLiegro,

 28 years in Education Field

¥ QUESTION 1: Has teaching your students while they are at home and you are in another location been the biggest challenge of your teaching career?: Has teaching your students while they are at home and you are in another location been the biggest challenge of your teaching career?

Yes, definitely. The challenge is adapting the curriculum so it is relevant in an online platform. At first it was difficult to determine how to present content in a manner that would allow students to interact with the material and become involved. Our success lies in the strength of our team. We worked together and were able to develop strategies that allowed us to reach each student.

¥ QUESTION 2: What is the best way to keep your students engaged while they are participating online in your class and in the hours they are doing their homework?

Just like we do while in school, we work to make the material interesting and fun. We have strong relationships with our students and I think that is the key to student engagement.

¥ QUESTION 3: Do you feel you are providing support to the parents in the education of their children at home and do you encourage parents to be involved in this process of at-home learning?

Yes, we do our best to support parents as they help their children access lessons on Google Classroom and Zoom. This is actually an extension of what we have always done. As a district, we strive to involve and support parents in all aspects of their children’s education. It is a team effort.

¥  QUESTION 4: Do you miss seeing your students in person at the A.C. Whelan School each day?

Terribly! That has been the hardest part of being away from school. We see students on Zoom, which is great, but nothing can replace seeing their smiling faces each day.

¥ QUESTION 5: Do you feel your students will be fully prepared to enter sixth grade after what will be four months of at-home learning?

I have no doubt that when students enter grade 6, their middle school teachers will meet them where they are and ensure success for the upcoming year.

Mari Johnson,

 7 years in Education Field

¥ QUESTION 1: Has teaching your students while they are at home and you are in another location been the biggest challenge of your teaching career?

Yes, this has been an adjustment for not only us but the students and their parents.

¥ QUESTION 2: What is the best way to keep your students engaged while they are participating online in your class and in the hours they are doing their homework?

We strive to make the work relevant but fun! On our Zoom calls we try to engage our students with games and interactive learning websites. As a team we have been collaborating daily to create creative content.

¥ QUESTION 3: Do you feel you are providing support to the parents in the education of their children at home and do you encourage parents to be involved in this process of at-home learning?

We are definitely providing a lot of support to parents at home, as they navigate this new way of learning. For most parents using these online platforms like Google Classroom and Zoom are new to them. When parents are involved in their students at-home learning they are encouraging this process and students are more likely to complete it.

¥  QUESTION 4: Do you miss seeing your students in person at the A.C. Whelan School each day?

Absolutely! This is something we never prepared our students for so it definitely came as a shock. Although we are trying our best to stay connected daily and continue our learning, nothing will replace face to face interaction and our ability to build relationships in person.

¥ QUESTION 5: Do you feel your students will be fully prepared to enter sixth grade after what will be four months of at-home learning?

I think it will be an adjustment for all getting back into the normal routine at school, but have full faith in their future teachers that they will be able to meet the needs of all students. We are working our hardest to continue to reinforce standards we have learned this year and engage our students for the remainder of the year.

Janelle Sutherland, 16 years in Education Field

¥ QUESTION 1: Has teaching your students while they are at home and you are in another location been the biggest challenge of your teaching career?

Yes! Providing materials and resources that are easily accessible to all students has been a huge challenge as well as being able to support them with assignments that they may have questions about. It is much easier to work with a group of students face to face than trying to do so over a computer.

¥ QUESTION 2: What is the best way to keep your students engaged while they are participating online in your class and in the hours they are doing their homework?

Our Zoom meetings not only focus on reinforcing academics but also allowing time for them just to be able to talk about whatever is on their mind. Our students’ emotional well being continues to be a major priority. Our fifth grade team tries to plan lessons and activities that are engaging for all students, such as interactive websites, a choice board of math activities, and students interacting with each other on a discussion board in Google Classroom. Our team works incredibly well together to best meet the needs of all students. I am so fortunate to be able to work with such an amazing fifth grade team.

¥ QUESTION 3: Do you feel you are providing support to the parents in the education of their children at home and do you encourage parents to be involved in this process of at-home learning?

Yes, I feel that we are doing everything we can to support parents and are frequently communicating with parents to best support their child. This is a learning curve for everyone but by working collaboratively, we can provide learning opportunities that are meaningful for every child.

¥  QUESTION 4: Do you miss seeing your students in person at the A.C. Whelan School each day?

More than anything……I miss seeing their smiling faces each and every day! Our Zoom chats help, but it is not the same as being with them in person

¥ QUESTION 5: Do you feel your students will be fully prepared to enter sixth grade after what will be four months of at-home learning?

Teachers have superpowers! These kiddos will be in great hands as they transition to middle school in the fall.

Amanda MacDonald, 9 years in Education Field

¥ QUESTION 1: Has teaching your students while they are at home and you are in another location been the biggest challenge of your teaching career?

This has definitely been the most unexpected challenge, but being on a team that consistently works together to make the best choices for our kids has made it easier to manage.

¥ QUESTION 2: What is the best way to keep your students engaged while they are participating online in your class and in the hours they are doing their homework?

Our team works to create a balance between letting them enjoy the time with their classmates and keeping lessons creative. They are craving that social interaction. Meaghan shared a way to make an ELMO out of soup cans so they can watch us write and draw! We’re working to incorporate academic games like Kahoot, sharing science experiments, and just letting them know their teachers are here for academics and for the more stressful parts of life right now.

¥ QUESTION 3: Do you feel you are providing support to the parents in the education of their children at home and do you encourage parents to be involved in this process of at-home learning?

This is really a new version of the relationship building we pride ourselves on in Revere. It’s 100% a partnership between kids, parents, and teachers. Our team has done a great job of trying to be consistent in our messages to parents and working together to find the best solutions in this situation. We’ve had parents send pictures of their computers to walk them through setting up Google Classroom, had individual Zoom sessions, and are trying to streamline this as much as possible for everyone.

¥  QUESTION 4: Do you miss seeing your students in person at the A.C. Whelan School each day?

Not being with the kids is the hardest part of remote learning. It hurts my heart. Seeing their faces when they sign onto our online sessions is the highlight of being at home for me.

¥ QUESTION 5: Do you feel your students will be fully prepared to enter sixth grade after what will be four months of at-home learning?

The next school year is going to be an adjustment for kids, parents, and teachers. It’ll be our job to meet the kids where they are at and I have full faith in our middle school colleagues that they will make the transition as smooth as possible.

Katelyn Cochrane,

 3 years in Education Field

¥ QUESTION 1: Has teaching your students while they are at home and you are in another location been the biggest challenge of your teaching career?

This has absolutely been the most challenging experience in my teaching career. It was not easy figuring out the best way to make the curriculum accessible to our students. I am lucky enough to work with a wonderful team, and together we have been able to navigate through this.

¥ QUESTION 2: What is the best way to keep your students engaged while they are participating online in your class and in the hours they are doing their homework?

Our Zoom meetings throughout the week are always an exciting and fun way to cover academic material and give the students an opportunity to simply interact with each other. The fifth grade team has worked closely together to create engaging lessons that also allow the students a time to converse with one another.

¥ QUESTION 3: Do you feel you are providing support to the parents in the education of their children at home and do you encourage parents to be involved in this process of at-home learning?

Absolutely! Whether it be in school or at home learning, we are always in close communication with parents and encourage them to be involved. This is new territory for everyone, we are all working together to provide the best learning experience possible.

¥  QUESTION 4: Do you miss seeing your students in person at the A.C. Whelan School each day?

Of course! Losing the opportunity to see my students face to face, every day has been the most difficult part of remote learning. From our time in school we formed great relationships and created such a wonderful classroom community. Even though we are continuing to build those relationships remotely, nothing is better than being together in class.

¥ QUESTION 5: Do you feel your students will be fully prepared to enter sixth grade after what will be four months of at-home learning?

Entering middle school for these students will be a new adjustment for many reasons. As a team we are working together to create engaging and rigorous lessons for the students, and will continue to do that for the rest of the year. I am fully confident that the middle school teachers will be able to support these students when we enter the new school year.

Meaghan DeSoto,

 12 years in Education Field

¥ QUESTION 1: Has teaching your students while they are at home and you are in another location been the biggest challenge of your teaching career?

It has certainly been a major challenge. Finding ways for students to not only engage in the content but also with each other virtually has been a challenge. In class we ask students to work cooperatively and support one another, so asking students to work so independently has been very different. However our cohesive work as a fifth grade team has helped us to navigate and support each other and our students.

¥ QUESTION 2: What is the best way to keep your students engaged while they are participating online in your class and in the hours they are doing their homework?

The structure of our weekly Zoom check ins, as well as our assignments, has been a combination of academic content, social-emotional support and fun. As a team, we felt providing this consistency would not only support students academically but also in their emotional well-being during this trying time. We have been getting creative too in how we discuss. For example I created a document camera using soup cans to review math content, my colleagues teaching science have done amazing hands on activities using what they have at home and my ELA counterparts have really engaged students in the text during their calls in creative ways.

¥ QUESTION 3: Do you feel you are providing support to the parents in the education of their children at home and do you encourage parents to be involved in this process of at-home learning?

I think this aspect is similar to what we have always done as a team, and also within the district. We see ourselves as partners with families to support their students. In addition to the academic support, we also have provided some daily supports that are non-academic that the whole family can participate in such as Mindfuless Mondays where we might provide yoga suggestions, or What’s in your heart Wednesday where we encourage creativity.

¥  QUESTION 4: Do you miss seeing your students in person at the A.C. Whelan School each day?

Yes! I miss hearing their lively discussions, learning about their lives and being there in person to support them!

¥ QUESTION 5: Do you feel your students will be fully prepared to enter sixth grade after what could be four months (March-June) of at-home learning?

For our fifth graders, middle school is always an adjustment. However I have no doubt the wonderful and talented sixth grade teachers next year will provide them with all the support necessary for them to succeed!

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