Teachers make an impact even at a distance

Shifting their curriculum to an online platform was not the plan for many teachers throughout the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed that. Now teachers are finding new ways to keep their students engaged – especially now that they are learning from home. 

Liani Calvo, a American History teacher at Mater Academy Cutler Bay uses an array of interactive activities with her sixth-grade students. Calvo who earned a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in Counselor Education, learned the practice from Sarah Mathews, an associate professor of social studies and chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning.

“She helped me realize differentiated instruction is really important, different and fun activities to capture students’ attention,” Calvo said.

At this time of year, Calvo’s students would act out a skit to learn about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. With distance learning the new reality, Calvo had to get a bit more creative to ensure her students were having an educational yet enjoyable and interactive experience online.

Insert Mission U.S. – an online video game that immerses players in a historical setting and empowers them to make choices and experience the tribulations people went through during the time of the Underground Railroad. 


“I’ve seen through study reviews that these activities help my students truly grasp the information,” Calvo said.   

Emily Corbin, an Exceptional Student Education teacher at Brucie Ball Educational Center, relies on the help of her students’ parents to bring learning alive.

“My kids can’t independently log in,” said Corbin, a psychology alumna. “It was initially very difficult to get them involved.”

Corbin’s students range from pre-kindergarten to first grade and like all students at Brucie Ball Educational Center, they are homebound or hospitalized, have a disability or are alternative education students.

Back at the classroom, Corbin would assign a different activity each day. While remote learning, Corbin’s students are assigned one activity each week.

Child with sensory bag

Corbin’s students were asked to create sensory bags – tools that help children learn while using their senses. At the end of the week, the parents helped Corbin’s students log in to a videoconference to show their project.

Still, Corbin’s students face many challenges. Many in the school-based program have severe disabilities and are provided resources and equipment at the center to help further their development.

When Corbin heard a student needed a gait trainer, she set out to find one. Corbin found a family at the school who had one they were no longer using and put them in touch. Thanks to Corbin and the generosity of a classmate’s family, the student’s need was filled.

Both once Rookie Teachers of the Year, Calvo and Corbin also share the same end goal: ensure their students receive the best education no matter the circumstances.

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