A Teacher’s Start to this Interesting Year

Teachers+at+orientation+for+the+2020+school+year.

Kelly Pedrick

Teachers at orientation for the 2020 school year.

Bobby Degeratu

On August 5, 2020, teachers all across the Clark County School District officially began preparations for the upcoming school year, one that will certainly come with its challenges.

Valley teachers came together–masked up and socially distanced, that is–to discuss plans and goals for the new year through an orientation. Collaborative efforts were made to set the scene for what is to come and to feel more comfortable about that transition process. Both teachers and administrators have their own thoughts and goals for this new phase in our academic lives, all stemming from the same central sentiment: optimism.

Assistant Principal Phillip Marsh addresses teachers at orientation. (Kelly Pedrick)

IB English teacher Jebette Caterina gives some insight on distance learning, stating that “with the infrastructure in place to reach all of our students where they are in our community, distance learning can be a phenomenal opportunity.” 

She believes students will benefit from learning on their own and being more accountable for their actions, complete with the support of everyone at Valley. Through offering strategies and encouragement, Ms. Caterina is hopeful that students will be empowered to learn more and carry that knowledge with them moving forward. 

“Learning personal responsibility takes practice, and I think distance learning reinforces the idea that ‘school’ is a state of mind, not a place, and they are capable and determined Vikings,” she concluded.

Amidst the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on education, Spanish teacher Gustavo Oseguera remains hopeful. 

Teachers Leroy De Los Santos and Patricia Woods finishing breakfast before teacher orientation. (Kelly Pedrick)

“Many significant changes, of one form or another, have affected education at all levels. One of the most profound can be seen in the lack of face to face interaction between the students and teachers,” he remarks. “But with digital platforms like Google Meets and Canvas, students can still have an interaction with their teachers and not hinder their academic process.”

When asked about his opinion on the new tools and systems, Oseguera highlighted their simple and user-friendly nature, once he was familiar with the basics. 

“I think the use of technology in the classroom plays a major role and is a good strategy for education, and now, students can access their classes at any moment, time, and place,” he concludes positively, considering the increased flexibility students now have with distance learning in full effect.

IB Diploma Programme Coordinator and History teacher Andrew Magness acknowledges the variety of challenges the new system will bring, especially on a personal level. 

“I have three kids, and at the same time I am supposed to be live teaching IB students, I have to put extra time aside to check on them and make sure they are behaving.” 

Assistant Principal Thomas Smith with new administrative assistant Marina Hernandez at teacher orientation. Teacher Sergio Segura picks up breakfast. (Kelly Pedrick)

Pertaining to school in particular, he worries that all of the work and preparation will go to waste if student participation is not as high as expected. 

“Not being close with the IB students and having our inside jokes after being with them for hours each day will also be a major loss.” 

Not all is lost, however, as Magness shares Caterina’s hope that students will learn how to be independent learners and find information on their own, which is especially beneficial for higher education. 

“How you learn is up to you,” he explains, “and teachers will not hand-hold as much.” 

For those worried about the change, Magness believes students are definitely in good hands. 

“There will be a structure, expectations, and a routine, which is what people want to get back to. IB teachers have a good idea of how to support you guys to help get better scores, and that I’m excited about,” he assured, speaking in terms of the pivotal 11th and 12th Grade years for IB students. 

Assistant Principal Ramona Fricker offered her take on our new reality as well. Despite access to students and how to support staff being the greatest challenges for her as an administrator, she believes that education has been due for a change.

Principal Ramona Esparza speaking with Assistant Principal Ramona Fricker during teacher orientation. (Kelly Pedrick)

 “I hope that with a virtual classroom, students have more responsibility on their end and we can improve the way we deliver education.” 

While full distance learning may not be ideal, Fricker acknowledged this is the closest Valley students have been to mirroring the college experience, which can be more beneficial than they imagine.

Through Canvas training, software, and simulations to get away from textbooks, Valley teachers are hard at work looking to steer their students and lessons in the right direction. For those who are still uneasy and unsure about the change, Assistant Principal Ramona Fricker gives some words of wisdom that should absolutely be taken into consideration.

“Remain calm, and try to take this time to reflect on your own learning style and what works best for your schedule. Although this is a monumental time, it doesn’t have to be negative,” Fricker proposes. “Write about it, remember it, and know that clubs and activities will remain, just not in the same way as before. Get involved and share your ideas. Things will go back to normal at some point, but until then, don’t get discouraged, advocate for whatever you can, and find a good support group. You are not alone!”

All CCSD schools will begin on Monday, August 24th. For Valley in particular, the new bell schedule has been announced, and it can be accessed via the school website (valleyhs.vegas) or the Thor’s Hammer Instagram page @thors_hammer_vhs.

Student schedules will consist of one open period for independent work before week-long instruction begins at 8:05am. Virtual office hours will also close out each day for student support and questions. By going into this new school year with an open mind and the desire for success, we can continue to thrive and excel–in true Viking fashion!