Courtesy of San Benito High School Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum:
Dear San Benito High School Parents, Students and Community:
As we move past the halfway point of our first six-week semester, I am pleased with the progress San Benito High School faculty, staff and administrators have made on providing a rigorous, inclusive educational experience despite the challenges of remote instruction. We are all working daily to support our students and parents, and appreciate their support and input.
Nearly six months from the start of remote instruction last school year, we have learned a lot about how best to maintain an educational experience that serves all students and responds to the needs of all families. We always have room for improvement, but are confident knowing that we have a team of educators and support staff that always put our students first, no matter the circumstances.
I asked some teachers to offer their perspectives on the challenges and successes of remote instruction, as their efforts are reflected in the educational experiences of our students.
Becky Bonner (Social Science teacher)
“The full virtual learning model is something that is new for all of us. Though we shifted to this model in the Spring it is really in the summer and the start of this school year that we embraced this format of teaching. Just like any new endeavor, there is a learning curve for students and teachers, but through this experience I have learned new technology and teaching platforms to deliver content to my students and to keep lines of communication open between students and parents. These new tools and strategies I have learned have strengthened my own teaching practice and will be used by me into the future.”
Ms. Bonner also expressed pride in the way her department has supported one another.
“The Social Science Department has always had a collaborative, supportive team and it has been a positive thing to witness this roll over into distance learning as everyone is rallying behind one another and sharing tips and strategies to strengthen our online community.”
Remote instruction is new to all of our teachers, which brings not only challenges, but opportunities.
“In a lot of ways, it is like being a new teacher again,” Ms. Bonner said. “New curriculum is being built, pacing guides are being made and adjusted, and teachers by trial and error are finding out what works best for their students and themselves in this new teaching model. I think it is important during this time to remember that no one is going to be perfect but that teachers are doing the best they can to support students and to create an online environment that fosters personal and academic growth.”
Blake Toro (Biology teacher)
Mr. Toro reflected on his co-teaching experience with Tom Sullivan, noting how students are learning how to engage through Zoom sessions.
“As opposed to the trials and tribulations of distance learning in the Spring semester, during remote learning this Fall there have been days where we have had 100 percent attendance in our class with students having their cameras on, if able, and all students are actively participating in the Zoom lecture by using the chat feature,” he said. “Although there has been a learning curve for both staff and students during the process of integrating new technologies into the classroom, I feel that the students who are participating actively are adjusting well to the online curriculum.”
Mr. Toro and Sullivan have been able to introduce and help students with relevant technology, such as EdPuzzle, GoFormative and Google Classroom, while using Zoom breakout rooms to facilitate student engagement and give students the option to choose the type of instruction that they receive.
Kathy Picchi (New Teacher Academy)
As the coordinator of our New Teacher Academy, Ms. Picchi utilized both synchronous and asynchronous learning approaches to prepare teachers for their first year at San Benito High School.
“Our newest teachers delved into the world of remote learning as they participated in professional development with themes from creating relationships in the remote classroom, teacher clarity, building asynchronous learning, to taking care of yourself as you remote teach,” she said. “These teachers have been working to create lessons to deliver the best possible education given the circumstances. We are in a unique position because we have teachers and students doing something together for the first time and they are helping each other. The new teachers went into this with a positive growth mindset and, although they are tired, they are enjoying our students and the work they are doing.”
Bo Buller (Social Science teacher)
Mr. Buller is not new to teaching, but is new to SBHS, so he brings the perspective of a veteran teacher thrown into new circumstances.
“So far, I have been very encouraged by the collaboration between teachers and students in making this distance learning model accessible for all of our learners,” he said. “It feels at points like a reintroduction into teaching and how we can create digital classrooms that emphasize that focus on student learning. I definitely miss the human interaction of getting to know the students at a school, but feel grateful to be in a place where the students understand the expectations and have raised their output in this unique environment.”
Mr. Buller joins me in crediting the administrative team and department leads for giving teachers “the resources to make our digital classrooms as seamless as possible. The students and parents have also been supportive in reaching out to teachers and encouraging success as we work through this unprecedented situation together. Collaboration is key, and San Benito High has been working together on all fronts to make this year successful for everyone involved.”
A Team Effort
As we continue to navigate through these unprecedented times, I am heartened by the cooperation and team effort of all involved, from our campus staff to our parents and community. We all have the best interests of our students in mind and are committed to ensuring they continue to receive a high-quality education, regardless of the circumstances.
Through it all, I am reminded that every day is a great day to be a Baler!
San Benito High School Superintendent Dr. Shawn Tennenbaum