May 01, 2020

McGillis Teachers Share Their Perspectives of First Weeks of Remote Learning

The McGillis School faculty and staff are a dedicated group of educators who care deeply about their students, the McGillis kehilah, and the health and well-being of both. 

After six weeks of being engaged in remote learning, we asked our faculty to share the highlights of their experience as well as the opportunities for growth they’ve found while teaching via our Continuous Learning Plan (CLP).

The responses from McGillis faculty were overwhelmingly similar. The closeness of our community and the relationship our faculty cultivates with students is the heart of McGillis. Distance makes this hard. The teachers miss the kids and they miss the connections. However, despite a remote learning environment, McGillis teachers continue to spend intentional time with students in order to nurture these special bonds. At McGillis community really is everything.

None of us were prepared to upend the way we teach, the way our students learn, and how we connect with our students in a meaningful way. We’ve been challenged with how to create interesting worthwhile content to be shared online to a group of learners who are coming into learning from a variety of circumstances each day. This is hard. These McGillis students have had to learn things no other students before them have had to learn. They have had to figure out how to plan, organize their work, and be strategic about how they spend their time each day. While this presents challenges for students, ultimately it is pushing them forward in unexpected ways. Learning remotely is not an ideal learning environment. This is not the way McGillis teachers want to teach or how we want our students to learn. Nonetheless, we are all in this together and we will have meaningful take-aways, as do our learners.

What has this experience led you to value most about teaching at McGillis?

“Teaching is about the relationship with students and between students; this is what makes McGillis magical.” ~ Liz Paige, Director of Ethics and Cultures

“I value the personal connection between myself and the incredible kids. I miss their sweet bubbly faces, their love for learning, and the world. I value our community of parents, teachers, and kids. Without all of these wonderful people teaching virtually is just not the same.” ~ Suky Stewart, 3rd Grade Teacher

“What I value most is the face-to-face time that we get with students. We laugh together a lot at McGillis and that's best done in person!” ~ Jocelyn Gukeisen, Middle School Math Teacher and Technology Systems Manager

“I value class time more than ever. I have always loved being in the classroom, feeling the pulse of the class, pivoting with the needs of the students, and fueling up on student energy.” ~ Meredith Morris, 8th Grade Integrative Studies Teacher

“I truly value being able to connect with my students and truly appreciate being with them in the classroom. I miss the hugs, the smiles, the connection. I am so grateful for our community... our families and friends. We have such a special community that is here for us even though we aren't together.” ~ Laura Bradford, 2nd Grade Teacher 

Has Continuous Learning provided any opportunities for your students that they may not have experienced in the classroom? 

“It has given them the opportunity to create their own schedule and to really embrace learning for the sake of learning.” ~ Jan Lundquist, 4th Grade Teacher

“I feel our opportunities for connection have been more meaningful. I see and hear my students expressing more gratitude, appreciation, and connection. They are working on being independent, problem solving, and patience.” ~ Kim Denkers, 3rd Grade Teacher

“Students have worked through technology frustrations and continue to learn new tools and problem-solving.” ~ Mary-Brook Townsend, Technology Integration Specialist

“Continuous Learning has thrust many students into an environment where organizational and planning skills are being put to the test. Students are learning a ton about how to manage their time, engage in self-care, and take on more responsibility for their learning.” ~ Kirsten Walker, 7th Grade Integrative Studies Teacher

“It has immersed them in the technological world. They are forced to learn how to use multiple apps independently. Additionally, this has also been a crash course in accountability, perseverance, independence.” ~ Erika Collins, Kindergarten Teacher

“The individual meeting time I have with each student is something to be cherished.  Not only do I get a glimpse of their personal spaces, but I can give one student my undivided attention and solely focus on their needs as a learner by creating an intimate space to explore their thinking completely guided by the work they have been engaged in outside of the classroom.” ~ Jayde Prudden, 4th Grade Teacher

“I think it has given them the opportunity to become more independent. Many of our assignments require an understanding of what is being asked prior to completing or starting the assignments. Students, now more than ever, have to think critically about what is assigned before continuing, and if they don't understand, be able to ask for help.” ~ Ben Anisman, 3rd Grade Teacher 

What do you want your students to take away from this experience?

“I want them to gain some grit: the understanding that they can handle the unexpected and stay strong in the face of challenge, while also being human and feeling the full spectrum of their emotions.” ~ Meredith Morris, 8th Grade Integrative Studies Teacher

“I want my students to take away the understanding that we can do hard things.  We can do things that are frustrating and different from "normal" because they are surrounded by people that believe in them and want to see them succeed. They are surrounded by teachers and family that love them, want to support and help them, and understand that we can do this together.” ~ Emmy Lowe, 1st Grade Teacher

“A feeling of empowerment -- that they are capable of stepping up and becoming self-guided learners. That they will truly understand learning for the sake of learning.” ~ Cynthia Hori, 6th Grade Integrative Studies Teacher

“I want them to feel that they are cared for whether they are in school or at home.” ~ Kelsey Hutten, Kindergarten Teaching Assistant

“I want them to feel confident that they can bend, flex, and be resilient even in challenging circumstances.” ~ Teresa Totorica, Athletics Director and Middle School Health Teacher

“I want the students to learn that they're more capable and independent than that for which they previously gave themselves credit.” ~ Steve Capone, 6th Grade Integrative Studies Teacher

“I hope they gain skills that allow for more independence in academics but also practical life skills. I hope they appreciate, more deeply, human connection. I hope they appreciate their community at McGillis.” ~ Amberly Miller, Middle School Academic Coach


In the fall, when we hopefully gather in-person again, McGillis teachers will open their classrooms and hearts to a new group of students, as they do every year. However, this year's classes will always hold a special place in our hearts. Although many events were missed and celebrations postponed or altered, this year our teachers and students have experienced something that will be a shared memory that uniquely bonds them in a way that reflects the magic of McGillis.


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