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Polk County teachers offer tips to families, other teachers for social distance learning

Posted at 4:19 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 18:35:23-04

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — As families are figuring out from the last two weeks of online learning, the transition from a classroom setting to completely online has its kinks.

ABC Action News spoke with three teachers to learn what is working and what is not.

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“We’ve got to get creative with this,” Erin Lavelle, a Language and Literature teacher said about online learning.

Thousands of teachers across the Tampa Bay area have taken a crash course in virtual learning, and for some, it shows.

In the first week of completely computer-based teaching, teachers tell us the hardest part was getting on the same page technology-wise with their students. Applications failed, internet access was an issue and for many students, even emailing was confusing.

“I had one kid in particular email in the subject line. I did not even know you could put a whole paragraph in the subject line,” said Dr. Vincent Miller II, a math teacher and Polk County’s teacher of the year.

ABC Action News has spoken with parents and were asked what can families and teachers can do to make this easier for everyone. Parents in the past have said the amount of work is overwhelming for them, not necessarily the students.

Teachers said they’re glad to see parents so involved in their children’s education and the interaction between parents and teachers has never been so extensive. However, Dr. Miller II says the expectations will remain the same with slightly different deadlines.

“The leniency is there but the expectation is the same because come tomorrow they still have to take the SAT, tomorrow they still have to get into college,” he said.

Dr. Miller II says his weekly assignments are still being given, but all of the work in the coming weeks won’t be due until May 17, giving students the opportunity to do their work when they are able to.


Other teachers struggling with certain online platforms have turned to social media like YouTube to get their classrooms up and rolling.

“I am trying to make it as authentic as possible so they know it’s still me,” Lavelle said.

Polk County teachers also recommend for others to keep the same standards as they would have been inside the classroom. They also mention being flexible, keeping the workload the same and staying in contact with students and parents so the lessons are clear.

“This is new for all of us. So I think that’s the big thing. It’s new for all of us. Give it a chance we will work it out just like we do in the classroom we will work it out,” Jennifer Horvatin, a fifth grade teacher said.

Trying new things and not being afraid to fail is also a big part of working on your own at home says Ms. Lavelle.

“I think parents are in panic mode. I think if those parents just reach out to the teachers or the teachers reach out to the parents all they need is reassurance. We can just say we are all doing this together, I am here to help you,” she said.

Polk County Public Schools plan on distance learning as long as the schools remain closed.

Governor Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order remains in effect until April 30.