Talks with a Teacher

Beth O’Connor

School

Retired
Previously: Essex High School

Subjects

Spanish

Teaching Online

10 years

“When I started Teaching, I had taken enough courses that I could see what difference the instructor makes in an online course. I could easily see myself in that role and I had had some good role models.”

I have been teaching Spanish for 18 years. My family moved to Mexico City when I was 9 years old, so I learned Spanish as a child. I love the language and hispanic cultures. I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my children until my youngest was in middle school. At that point, I started substitute teaching and eventually started teaching in a brick and mortar school. I taught Spanish I throught Spanish 5 at Essex High School until the June of 2019 when I retired. My youngest son was a student in one of my classes my first year of teaching. I am grateful that I have been able to continue teaching Spanish online through VTVLC.

I heard about VTVLC when it was first proposed and I couldn’t wait to get on the list to be a part of the program. I was, sadly, not able to be a part of the first cohort but I was able to join in year 2. I have always loved technology so taking online classes seemed like a great idea to me. At the time that VTVLC started, I was in the middle of earning a Master’s in Education online. I love being an online student. I enjoy the ablility to pace my learning to my life and learning needs. When I started teaching, I had taken enough courses that I could see what a difference the instructor makes in an online course. I could easily see my self in that role and I had had some good role models.

“I think that online learning is such an important option for learners today. I think that it has been the only solution for some of the students that I have taught. “

I think that online learning is such an important option for learners today. I think that it has been the only solution for some of the students that I have taught. For students who have choronic illness, advanced athletic training, scheduling conflicts and some special learning needs, to name a frew circumstances, it has been essential. I love that we can meet those needs. I also love that I can develop relationships with my students in different ways to those that I in a classroom. I think that my studetns value responsiveness most of all. they like to feel that they can get their questions answered or problems solved quickly. I also think that both my students and I appreciate that they can get one on one time where I can give instruction or clarification or walk them through troubleshooting a computer problem. I feel that the OTS endorsement is very important to me. I feel that the fact that Vermont has this endorsement acknowledges that there is an understanding about the nature of online teaching and learning that is important and valued. It also ensures that the students taking an online course in Vermont can be sure that the instructor has demonstrated the necessary skills for teaching online.

There are some challenges to taking a language online. The process of language learning is unique to other disciplines in that the learner needs to spend a good deal of time listening, and reading so that they can learn to write and speak it. Teaching studetns to become good language learners is what I see as part of my job. They need to be taught how to use the curriculum to enhance their progress in learning the language. I encourage students to spend lots of time on the recorded and written parts of the course as well as to take the time to supplement their learning by using other internet resources.

Rebecca Lowe

School

Lyndon Institute, Lyndon, VT

Subjects

AP Statistics
Geometry in Constructions
Algebra I
Personal Finance
Pre-Calculus

Teaching Online

15 years

“One of the biggest challenges is debunking the myths about online teaching and learning. Many inexperienced online teachers and traditional teachers believe that online teaching is less effective, less engaging, and less rigorous. In fact, online classes are as effective or even more effective than traditional face-to-face classes.”

For the past 15 years, I have been teaching online in some form, whether it be a blended course or completely asynchronous. I also have experienced being an online student as I earned my masters degree through an online program. I got involved in online teaching because​ I see myself as a lifelong learner and I want to model a growth mindset for my students. It is essential as a professional educator to keep up with the changes and developments in education. Online teaching was a way for me to improve and develop into a highly effective teacher.
One of the most important things I have learned is that online teaching is highly effective if you are willing to transcend traditional models of teaching and learning.
In addition to teaching online, I serve as a mentor to prospective and new online teachers. One of the biggest challenges is debunking the myths about online teaching and learning. Many inexperienced online teachers and traditional teachers believe that online teaching is less effective, less engaging, and less rigorous. In fact, online classes are as effective or even more effective than traditional face-to-face classes. Ultimately we want our students to take responsibility for their own learning and this is a benefit of online classes taught by well-trained, open-minded, and creative teachers within their discipline.

“One of the most important things I have learned is that online teaching is highly effective if you are willing to transcend traditional models of teaching and learning. “

Mathematics is well-suited for online teaching. Online math classes can be created so they are proficiency-based, highly-individualized, and adaptable to a student’s learning style.

Students have the flexibility to work at their own pace and at the times that suit them best.

Obtaining my Online Teaching Specialist endorsement was important to me. Formal training in best practices in online teaching and learning is necessary for student achievement. I was fortunate to have full support of my school. 

It is most important for my students to develop the skills necessary to be successful as online learners. These soft skills, like persistence, perseverance, self-direction, effective time management and communication skills, are also transferable and essential for success in life. 
An online student-centered learning environment is one where the focus of instruction is shifted from the teacher to the student, with the end goal of developing students who are autonomous and independent. As a result, the teacher takes on the roles of facilitator, mentor, and coach, This was a wonderful change from the traditional teaching roles.

I  absolutely love teaching online. It has undoubtedly made me a more effective teacher. Even after 20+ years of teaching, I am still energized, enthusiastic, and cherish my career as an educator. There are numerous benefits to being an online teacher and to being an online student. Every student should take an online class.

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