Feature Friday: Danielle Macias- Emphasis on COVID-19 School Shut Downs

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here. 

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Danielle Macias, an innovative learning coach in Orem, Utah. She workes directly with teachers to improve pedagogy using innovative ideas. Before she became a learning coach, Danielle taught English and ESL. 

I asked Danielle to interview today specifically regarding the COVID-19 school shutdowns because I have witnessed how influential she has been to teachers at such a vulnerable time. Her knowledge and insight, not only as a learning coach but as a parent as well, I felt needed to be shared beyond our community. Here is what Danielle has for us: 

What is your favorite thing about teaching this age/subject?

“My favorite thing about teaching teenagers is that they are discovering who they are and where they belong in society. I like to think that the literature we read, the topics we write about, and discussions we share help mold the person they choose to become. 

My favorite part about coaching teachers is that I get to witness how they refine their practice and tackle challenges that were previously not allowing them to enjoy teaching to the fullest.”

What are the negative impacts you have seen with schools shut down for COVID-19?

“One of the negative impacts COVID-19 has had on education is the limited face-to-face interactions due to social distancing. Building classroom culture can take months to cultivate, and most teachers are now reteaching classroom procedures and expectations as they navigate online teaching, which can be frustrating and difficult to accomplish when you cannot see students face-to-face. The COVID-19 dismissal happened from one day to the next, and both teachers and students are now grieving the loss of those daily interactions with their teachers and peers.”

What are the positive impacts you have seen?

“One of the positive impacts of social distancing during COVID-19 is the innovative ways in which teachers use technology to teach online. In less than a week, Alpine teachers collaborated with Innovative Learning Coaches and other school leaders in technology to create content for online teaching. They did not sign up to teach online, yet they gracefully rose to the occasion.”

“Additionally, teachers have found ways of maintaining relationships with students through social media, online discussion boards, live video conferencing, and video announcements. Personally, I have seen how my 6-year-old daughter looks forward to seeing her classmates and her teacher when they meet online.” 

How have you seen the schools, teachers, and students rally together during this hard time?

“I have seen teachers who usually do not socialize with others out of their department collaborate with each other by sharing resources, tips for online teaching, and provide emotional support. Teachers have not lost their sense of humor, and I can usually expect a meme or lighthearted message in my inbox. Most heartwarming of all is that, although students cannot come to teachers, teachers have found ways to go to students. I have heard of teachers dropping off materials to students, setting up one-on-one virtual meetings with students, and even driving by students’ homes as teachers put on a car parade.”

How have the teacher’s reacted to this situation?

“Teachers are stepping up to the plate! The teachers with whom I work are constantly refining their craft and relying on each other for support. In a way, social distancing brought our schools together because we had no choice but to collaborate.”

What tips do you have for parents at this time?

“At this time, I know how difficult it is to work from home and teach my own child. My advice for students and parents is to give yourself permission to prioritize your mental health and focus on the essentials. If something did not get done today, social distancing will still be here tomorrow, so that worksheet can wait. When online learning becomes unbearable, take a break, and enjoy each other. Who knows when families will have the abundance of time we have now to be together again.”

What tips do you have for teachers right now?

“My biggest tip for teachers is to create a work schedule and stick to it. Otherwise, you will find yourself answering emails all day long. Set aside time to offer feedback on assignments and discussion boards. Set aside time to improve your craft by looking at best online teaching practices. Set aside virtual office hours.”

“And just as important, set aside time to step away from your screen and check-in with yourself. It is easy to feel guilty about stepping away because every email seems urgent, and you think that if students are working after your own work hours, then so should you. The hardest part of this is being accountable to yourself because you can easily be sucked back into replying to just one short email or recording one quick instruction video until your work has bled into your evening.”

“One way I have managed my responsibilities is by creating a list of weekly to-dos in Google Keep so I stay organized, using the checkbox feature to check-off tasks makes me feel accomplished, and the list reminds me of where I left off the day before.”

“When work becomes stressful, it is comforting to know that by teaching online, educators may be providing the only sense of normalcy students will experience until this pandemic comes to an end.”

Thanks, Danielle for the great insight and tips you have fun us! Everyone stay safe out there and wash your hands! 

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