Over 30 GAC faculty members weigh in on the positive impacts the pandemic had on education. As schools move forward into a post-pandemic reality, GAC has intentionally looked for ways to regain a sense of normalcy in as many areas as possible. However, we also can not overlook the fact that the pandemic has been a catalyst for innovation. Many of the top ten things were already priorities at GAC, but were found to be indispensable during the pandemic.
“Coming out of the pandemic has broadened the educational experience for each student and teacher. Education has not been limited by the pandemic, it has expanded beyond belief in ways we could not have imagined before 2020.” - Dr. Betty Morris, Director of Academics
and Teacher Growth.
We asked over 30 GAC faculty members to weigh in on the topic. Here are the top 10 things that educators at GAC feel were a positive result of COVID-19’s impact on education.
1. Personalized Education Experience
Every student has a unique story. Differentiated instruction has been a priority at GAC for many years but we are now keenly aware of educating students where they are. In the future of education, a cookie-cutter approach is no longer an option.
2. Expertise with Essential Technology
If they were not already experts before, all of our teachers could now teach a course on instructional technology in the classroom. Every day, teachers use video conferencing powered by Artificial Intelligence technology, digital document cameras, digital whiteboards, and graphics tablets, just to name a few. All lessons are recorded for students to refer back to later. Regular whiteboards have essentially become obsolete. Students are gaining essential skills, and classes are now more accessible than ever to all students.
3. More Intentional Communication
Teachers set clearer expectations and digital work allows for more immediate feedback. “Interactions with students are more frequent and intentional”, says Leigh Lowman, Middle School English Teacher. Administrators have increased transparency with parents, students, and teachers. Video communication has become the norm in order to convey emotion. Listening with empathy is vital at every level and in every department.
4. Emphasis on Parent/Teacher Relationships
“COVID-19 emphasized and deepened our appreciation for families and our connection with them.” - Rhonda Helms, Lower School Principal
Parents continue to be an essential part of a students’ educational journey. Teachers know this now more than ever. Parents have a better understanding of classroom expectations and teacher roles after seeing a class on our synchronous classroom platform, GAC Sync. Even busy parents are able to stay connected through video conferencing with teachers and live-stream performances.
Although we are overjoyed that many in-person volunteers have returned to campus, even virtual volunteer opportunities build relationships. For example, adding a Zoom option to our Lower School Mystery Reader tradition has allowed for participation from grandparents who are out of state and parents who could not take extended time off of work.
5. Ownership of Learning
When students are given choices, they are more likely to take ownership of their learning. Whether it be in learning style, class modality, project topic, or course selection, we have learned that providing options and flexibility gives students the chance to explore passions or express their learning in a way that is meaningful to them.
“I am more academically responsive to my students. Because my curriculum consumables and assessments are online now, students have the option to use the traditional materials (on paper) or they can use digital. This is giving my students more ownership of their learning styles.” - Ansley Keiser, 5th Grade Teacher
Post-pandemic, when provided with the choice to attend school virtually via GAC Sync or in-person on campus, about 5-10% choose GAC Sync on a given day. Absences are also at a record-breaking low school-wide, which shows us that students want to be on campus but are utilizing GAC Sync when they need to.
6. Value for Engaging and Collaborative Learning
Undeniably, we all gained a new appreciation for in-person learning through the pandemic. Yet, teachers have found new ways to facilitate collaboration whether students are attending virtually or in-person. The pandemic forced us to ask, “what does it look like to be engaged in class?” and recognize that just because a student is present, it does not mean they are engaged. We are leaving solely “teaching-by-telling” behind and moving forward with engaging, hands-on experiences.
7. Broader Scope of Priorities
The pandemic closed a lot of doors but opened a lot of windows
into the personal lives of our students. This helped to broaden
the scope of what we prioritize during the school day. “We have
all taken note of what is truly important. Spending time together, worshiping together, and interacting with each other socially are critical in our daily and weekly lives”, shares Lauren Hollier, Middle School Academic Dean. Community-wide events are being planned every month, like the Homecoming Parade and Screen on the Green. Classes take place outside in outdoor learning spaces to refresh
and combat student fatigue. We are more cognizant of the social-emotional health of each student and the need to holistically prepare them for their future.
8. Increased Creativity and Professional Growth
GAC has always been obsessed with finding a better way. The pandemic strengthened this muscle and brought about increased creativity and professional growth. It presented an opportunity to look deeply at all that we are doing as a school. Teachers are curious about new ways of teaching and assessing the outcomes for each student.
9. Increased Cross-Collaboration
We have all recognized that in education, it takes a village. Thanks to our Health Team, we are physically healthier. The Community Relations Team helps teachers re-imagine events outdoors or via live-stream, and Administrators are now instructional technology coaches. We can no longer operate in silos because we know now that we are greater together.
10. Greater Appreciation for our Teachers!
“I truly believe that the public-at-large, not just parents, is more aware of the great influence and benefit of teachers in students’ lives.” - Billy Jones, High School Physics Teacher
We are more thankful than ever for the grit, determination, and passion of our wonderful teachers at GAC. We recognize that their devotion to serve and educate all Spartan students (both in person and via GAC Sync or Ethos) is what brings the mission of GAC to fruition. Our children’s lives and educational paths will forever be impacted by their teachers’ dedication.