Will Distance Learning Ever Really Go Away?

Digital learning is no stranger to any teacher across the globe. COVID-19 has overtaken so many aspects of our lives, and schools have taken a hard hit as well. 

Google Classrooms


Google Drive with sheets, docs, and more


More Zoom. 

Emails on emails on emails. 

And Zoom. 

All things that majority of teachers are all too familiar with. 

Someday, our lives will go back to normal. Someday, far in the future, we won’t have to wear masks, apply hand sanitizer every three minutes, or tremble in fear when we accidentally cough at the grocery store. Instead of hearing coronavirus in the present tense, it will all be past tense. Someday we will be reading about the toilet paper shortages in history books and recalling memories of quarantine to our kids and grandkids that were too young to remember. 

But when it’s all over, will our schools go back? Will we continue to have our standardized learning that took place before COVID? A teacher using technology as a resource in the classroom. Or, will this pandemic change our teaching? Will Zoom still continue to be a meeting place for teachers, administration, and students? If we didn’t have to spend the gas and time driving to a common location but instead meet from the comfort of our own homes, will we? Or is there an added value of face-to-face communication? 

I’m eager to see how our world changes and adapts to this new-normal, even when the pandemic is over. What are your thoughts? Will everything go back to how it used to be, or are we adapting and changing? 

Feature Friday: Haley Trauntvein

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 Haley Trauntvein, a 4th-grade teacher in the small town of Tremonton, Utah. Haley loves teaching 4th-grade because she loves seeing how independent the students are becoming at this age and it’s fun for her to see them develop their personalities and sense of humor. Haley received her teaching degree from Utah State University. Go Aggies! 

What made you want to go into teaching? 

“Growing up, my father was a high school teacher, and one of my closest aunts was an elementary teacher, so it was always on my mind, but what really got me into it was when I actually did my high school senior project of tutoring in a middle school math class. This class was specifically for eighth-grade students who tested well below the benchmark, to the point where they were on a second or third-grade level. Over the semester, I went in every morning and provided one-on-one tutoring and small group lessons with the supervision of an awesome teacher. After that semester, my life was changed forever. I let myself get scared out of it for a while and tried out my hand in cosmetology, which I still love a lot. Once I moved to Logan, Utah a few years later, I became a teacher’s aide in a third-grade classroom, I finally got myself to start taking classes, and now I’ve been graduated for a little over a year, and still loving it.” 

What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom? 

“My school purchased iPads for all the teachers this year, as well as software to project the screen up onto the smartboard. Being able to have students interact with it has been so much fun. I also love the mobility of the iPad. Being tied down to standing at the document camera makes it really hard to reach your more challenging students, so having the ability to walk around and be right with them has been amazing.”

How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum? 

“One of my favorite ways that we have integrated art into the curriculum was by doing character sketches of the book Holes. Groups of students were assigned to work together to sketch what the character might look like and to use their personality and other character traits to fill in the background. I definitely had some kids take more artistic license with their characters… but it was still very fun and whenever we pass their posters out in the hall, they beam with pride.”


If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why? 

“I honestly love the book Holes, maybe it’s because I got to read it when I was a kid myself and loved it then, but being able to teach about it and get my students to really think about the overarching theme of luck, destiny, and chance, has been so fun and each student has had such unique perspectives to contribute to the discussion.”

What are your best tips for avoiding burnout? 

“It’s probably not the healthiest, but after a hard day, I reward myself by going to the local soda shop (shoutout to Soda Fixx!) and get a pop and one (or two) of their delectable stuffed rice crispy treats to eat on my commute home. If that doesn’t work, I call my dad and make him listen to my complaints.”

Who influenced you most to choose a career in education?

“All of the kids I’ve been so lucky to meet and teach are my biggest inspirations. At one of the schools I worked at, I was shown Rita Pierson’s TEDTalk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion,” and I really took that to heart. I get so much from these kids, and they deserve to have someone looking out for them and their needs. I’m not calling myself a “champion” by any means, but I’ll fight for these kids’ rights any day.”

Thanks, Haley for the great tips and insight you had for us today. I think we all should consider a soda after a hard day of teaching, we deserve it! Come back next week for our next Feature Friday where we are privileged to hear from Kim Anderson, an educator, and administrator. 

Feature Friday: Bobbie Murphy

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 Bobbie Murphy, a sixth-grade teacher in Utah. Bobbie says that her favorite part of teaching sixth-grade is that “I can have a personality with them. I love that I can share the things I like, and I can relate to them in more realistic ways.” Here’s what Bobbie has for us today:

What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom? 

“I love to use Digital Escape rooms, and I am super excited because I should be getting an Apple TV soon which will help me to not be tied to my cords to teach.”

How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum? 

“I love to allow my students time to create using various supplies, or to plan activities where they can be creative like creating a shield during medieval times unit or to create something that would prevent an ice cream sandwich from melting.”

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why? 

“One of my most favorite books to read to my students is Out of my Mind. This book teaches students that they need to be more inclusive of others because the main character has a disability.”

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching? 

“I wish they would have told me how much I would grow to LOVE my students, and that I would be so incredibly exhausted for the first few weeks of school.”

What are the benefits you’ve seen in collaborating with your team of teachers? 

“When we truly collaborate with each other our teaching becomes easier because we are working together for the good of our entire grade. We use each other’s ideas to help individual students and our students as a whole.”

How do you use student voice in your classroom and what outcomes have you seen from it? 

“In my classroom, students help create the rules of our classroom which always come back to my ONE rule, do not interfere with others learning. In the classroom, I have a jar that says, “What I wish my teacher knew…” Students can place a note in the jar any time they need to talk with me in a private way. Students find that they can have opinions about things and that I will listen/ read each one, privately and I will respond as appropriate to their concerns.  I feel that if students trust me with the little things they will trust me with the big things too!”

Thanks Bobbie for taking time to answer some questions for us! She had some great things to share with us on what it looks like to be an educator. Come back for our Feature Friday next week to hear from a 4th-grade Utah teacher! 

A Free EdTech Resource For The Classroom And Distance Learning: Virtual Field Trips

I originally planned to write about virtual field trips in late May after I went to the UCET conference in Provo, Utah. I was pumped up and ready to dive deep into virtual learning/ using technology in education! However, soon after the UCET conference, COVID took over our education systems, forcing us to use technology to learn, socialize, and even grocery shop. By late May, I couldn’t bring myself to write about one more technology use in the classroom because I was burnt out. And I’m not even teaching right now, so I cannot imagine how educators feel!! Instead of writing about my original plan of virtual field trips, my post on slowing down and remembering the simple, one-room schoolhouse came about instead. It felt more appropriate. 

Now that I’ve had a break from writing about the tech world for a little span on time, I feel more ready to write about my original idea. Here it is: virtual field trips.

Did you know virtual field trips were a thing? I did not! Don’t you (especially those social study teachers) wish you could put all of your students on an airplane each year and bring them to Alcatraz or the Eiffel Tower? While there are so many reasons this can’t work out, there is one simple way you can do this with your students. It’s simple. It really, truly is so simple and FREE. 

Do you have a computer? Good. Open Google Maps. Search your desired location. Turn on street view. You’re there. You did it. See, I told you it was simple!

Matt from Ditch That Textbook wrote about it here on his website that gives you a better rundown of exactly how to use it to its full potential. Or if you’re looking for an even easier route, he put links to 20 different field trips for you. All you have to do is click the link and you’re magically walking through Yellowstone National Park.

Matt was our keynote speaker at UCET and where I learned this new trick. His website is packed full of great educational tips and free resources, never once would he link us or send us down a path that costs money, he truly believes educational materials should be free and is doing a wonderful job at accomplishing this.

A screenshot from my computer during a virtual field trip. A cell in Alcatraz.

It may not have the same impact as walking the streets themselves, but I will attest to the fact that it’s more engaging than pictures in a textbook or on a computer. It’s different, it’s interactive, and it’s educational. 

Another screenshot from my Alcatraz field trip.
The White House

I invite you to play with these virtual field trips this summer while school is out so that when your students come back in the fall you can be ready to do this in the classroom with them, or send them home with the assignment to explore a new place during distant learning. When you’re done, come on back here and let me know how it went and share any tips you have for other teachers! 

Cover photo from pexels.com

Feature Friday: Mary Wade

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 Mary Wade, a kindergarten teacher, AND the previous writer for this blog! She was willing to do this interview with me even amidst the crazy going on with schools shutting down during the global pandemic, not only for her as a teacher, but also as a mom. Here’s what Mary has for us. 

What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom?

“This is a definitely unique time for that question! Under normal circumstances, while teaching fifth-grade years ago, I would have said student blogging. I loved seeing their reflections and their confidence grow over time. But now that we’re on full remote teaching and I’m working with kindergarteners, I am loving Youtube. Parents don’t have to subscribe to see the links, our whole grade level is collaborating to contribute wonderful content, and we can organize our videos into playlists so it’s easy for little ones to watch more than one at a time. When I was working with fifth grade, we also enjoyed leveraging Youtube for flipped learning, particularly for math. Students could watch me teach a previously-recorded clip at their own pace, freeing me up for one-on-one instruction throughout the room.”

How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum?

“My current Waldorf-inspired school is all about arts integration! It has been wonderful to have been challenged to do this more this year. For my kindergarteners, I have found that starting the first 15 minutes of our day with an art project has made for a wonderful soft start. Our PLC collaborates to find projects that inspire students to make connections to our curricula.”   

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why? 

“Just ONE??? Well, you know I’m just going to work around that by sharing my Goodreads list! But truly, recommending a children’s book is something I take seriously, and upon which much depends on the recommendee. I firmly believe in teachers as children’s book connoisseurs so we can be ready to give timely recommendations to our students! For example:”

Do they need to be inspired by the power of one voice? I’d say The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, or For Every One by Jason Reynolds. 

Do they need to laugh? Maybe We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins or Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm.

Are they a deep thinker? Perhaps Carl & the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman, Forever or A Day by Sarah Jacoby or The Nest by Kenneth Oppel. 

Do they love to explore the natural world? Definitely The Brilliant Deep by Kate Messner or The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood. 

Is poetry their jam? Probably When’s My Birthday by Julie Fogliano by or I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris. 

Are they after a just plain delightful story? Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

But if you really want just one, a read that’s close to my heart right now is All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon. It makes me feel connected and comforted amid all the “social distancing” right now. 

What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it? 

“Pacing has always been tricky for me. Planning specific questions beforehand has been key to my improvement.”

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching? 

“Just to brace yourself for the drinking-from-the-fire-hose volume of information you’d be expected to take into consideration at any given point. IEPs, bell schedules, allergies, recess duty, friendships, parent concerns–everything. I wish someone would have given me the tip to start the year with a spreadsheet of all the students where you can jot notes down as they come to help you gradually absorb it all. And don’t worry, eventually, you will, and you’ll get into a good flow. But be patient with yourself in the meantime!”

How have you seen education change in the years you’ve taught? 

“I taught both before and after Common Core, and while it’s far from perfect, there’s one powerful shift I’ve observed because of it: more “how do you know what you think you know?” Really helping students to learn to point to evidence to support their thinking, even from a very young age, is a profoundly-needed skill for all 21st-century learners.” 

What are the benefits you’ve seen in collaborating with your team of teachers? 

“There have been benefits throughout the year in arts integration like I’ve described above. But the benefits are even more tremendous right now as we are pulling together for this school closure. Everyone has different strengths, so as we contribute what we’re good at, it helps us pull this off!”

How do you use student voice in your classroom and what outcomes have you seen from it? 

“My favorite way to see student voice with my kindergarteners is in their writing. We have created personal word rings for each of them that we add to throughout the year, and we encourage them to think of their own sentences. Their emerging voices are nothing short of beautiful.”

What has been one of your favorite teaching moments so far? 

“This year, some of my favorite moments have been while gardening with my kindergarteners. Before COVID-19 started, we were working on clearing grass from our planter box. Students chose between hoes or rakes and experimented with their different functions as we cleared and tilled. The level of communication, cooperation, and mindfulness made it thoroughly a lovely and engaging time for us all.”

What tips do you have for teachers who take a few years off of teaching and then start again, as you did? 

“I would definitely practice interviewing beforehand. I didn’t realize just how rusty I’d gotten, but it had been 9 years since I’d last interviewed for a job! I’d also recommend taking the time to get to know your new grade level team outside of school if possible. Get together for lunch and learn about their “real” lives to build your relationships.”

Mary has so much information for us! Thank you for sharing your insights, and book lists, with us! It was so much fun featuring Mary on the blog today. She dedicated years and years to growing this blog and then trusted it in my hands while she teaches Kindergarten this year, so obviously we needed a Feature Friday for her! Thanks, Mary! 

You Don’t Have To Be Screen-Free To Be Successful

How many times do you see on any social media platform “Screen-Free Summer!” or, “How our family became screen-free” maybe the “Screen-Free Challenges”? These titles are indicating that using screens such as iPads, movies, and electronic games are bad. But is it bad if you aren’t screen-free in your homes? 

Our schools are using technology and can even be thriving through its use!! But then we go home and are pressured into being a screen-free home. Media can be harmful. But also… It doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to be screen-free to be successful. Say it with me again, you don’t have to be screen-free to be successful! 

Media can be powerful. It can pull teachers and students together during a global pandemic. It can give a teacher a few minutes of free time to grade papers or join a zoom meeting because she’s still a mom with kids to teach and entertain herself. It can be a platform for friends to collaborate and create, hello Minecraft! 

Scree-free for some households works great. But media filled households can also function and have just as much success. Let’s stop focusing on what we need to add or take away from our lives and start growing with the resources we have, media, and all! 

Feature Friday: Kiera Rasmussen

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 Kiera Rasmussen, a first-grade teacher in Roanoke, Virginia. Mrs. Rasmussen loves teaching this age because they mostly have their foundation for learning, but are still young and excited about new information. She received her elementary education degree from Utah State University. 

What made you want to go into teaching? 

Ever since I can remember, I have loved working with children and teaching. I wanted a career that would make an impact on future generations and I could see the difference I was making.

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why? 

Giraffes Can’t Dance – I love the lesson that it teaches. It is okay to be different and unique! Everyone has something they are good at and it is not always the same as everyone else.

What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it? 

I worked in an inner-city school, so it was very challenging to have students from very rough homes and family life, and many students with behavior problems. What I kept in my mind the whole time is that they just need love and stability. My most important job as their teacher was to make sure the students knew they were loved and safe. It was also important to lean on coworkers and receive help.

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching? 

I wish someone would have told me that it is okay when lessons or days don’t go well! It doesn’t mean you are not doing a good job. Most of the time, following the lesson plan exactly does NOT work. It may not work exactly as thought for that group of kids or even just that day. Teaching requires adapting to the students.

Who influenced you most to choose a career education? 

My mom! She has been teaching for 25+ years. She taught while I was growing up, so I had the chance to watch her and learn so much from her. I had a lot of experience practicing and learning from her example.

Thanks Kiera for all of your insight! Come back next week to read our Feature Friday post from our old writer here at Honors Grad U, Mary Wade!