Maria Gilmour has been a teacher for more than 14 years. The Mentor, Ohio resident has spent her career teaching in a variety of settings including public, private and charter schools and has enjoyed working with students in the middle school grades.
Last spring, when she found herself teaching remotely after the schools were closed due to the pandemic, she became very interested in the idea and the capabilities of reaching and engaging students in a true online classroom.
As the pandemic continued to impact our communities during the summer, school administrators across the state wrestled with how they should re-open in the fall while protecting students and teachers. Maria grew worried not just about her health but the health of her family. She was also concerned about all the uncertainty and the possibility of having to switch from teaching in person, online or in a hybrid model.
She worked very hard to learn more about virtual education and she sought out opportunities to teach at an online school. She accepted a position to teach 7th grade Social Studies and Language Arts at Great River Connections Academy and she right away was able to adapt to this different approach to teaching.
“I like the idea of having control over my own environment and still having the opportunity to work with students,” Maria said. “I had worked with some of the online platforms that were available in the spring and I learned I could still engage students from my desk at my home.”
The transition to the virtual classroom for Maria was relatively easy. She said everything on the GRCA platform is created for virtual education -- from the LiveLesson classroom, to the learning management system that tracks the participation and progress of each student, down to the students who are able to maneuver and navigate the system effectively.
“Through all these tools, we are able to deliver a curriculum that meets the same standards,” she said. “I also know that anytime I’m working with a student over the phone, via text or email, I can stop everything if necessary and go online and share my screen so we can work together without missing a beat.”
While the students do understand the expectations when working in the online environment, Maria said there have been a couple who were a little shocked by how involved the teachers are and their level of engagement.
“In the online environment every student has to understand that they can only be successful by using the technology that is available, but it is a two-way street requiring two-way communication between teacher and student,” she said. “If the motivation is there to do the work and learn, it will work regardless if we are online or in a brick and mortar.”
Maria said regardless if a teacher is in a traditional classroom or in a virtual classroom, you find students who are super into school and they love to learn. Then there are those who are decent students and are content to only do what is required and be done. There are others who are struggling for various reasons.