The building may be new and she is teaching remotely but it’s still the Taylor neighborhood kids
For some to say they have landed their dream job, it is usually an exaggeration. For Courtney Lima, her childhood fantasy has become a reality.
Lima, born and raised in New Bedford, dreamed of being a teacher at a young age, specifically teaching in the school she attended, the William H. Taylor Elementary School on the South End peninsula.
In her senior year at New Bedford High School, she held an internship at Taylor and graduated from Curry College this past May with a degree in elementary education and a minor in math education. Immediately upon returning home, she saw a listing on SchoolSpring, a job posting site for the education field. Today, she has returned to her roots to be the third-grade distance learning academy teacher.
Was it everything she had ever dreamed of? Not quite.
“This is completely different than from what I would have ever expected,” Lima said. “Even going into my student teaching in my senior year of college, probably six months ago, it was different than what my expectation is now.”
Lima will be completely remote for the year in her profession, as she is the designated teacher for students who have chosen to be fully remote. Upon accepting her position, she was initially hired as a hybrid teacher but was shifted to fully remote. As Taylor School plans for the hybrid learning experience to begin in October, she will be presenting her lessons via Google Meets Monday through Friday.
“For me, that was the biggest adjustment,” she said. “Of course I wanted to have students in person, that’s what you dream about going to college and becoming a teacher, but you just have to have a positive mindset. I have to go into this year thinking to make it the best year not only for me, but for my students as well. In my eyes, this kid still deserves the best 3rd grade experience given the circumstances.”
Starting a career based on hands-on learning completely remote can be challenging but Lima has taken it in stride with the help of her colleagues.
“The support system at Taylor is remarkable,” she said. “All the teachers have been amazing. They all sympathized with me when they found out I was going to be fully remote.”
Although her students are learning from the comfort of their own homes, Lima holds her virtual meetings from her classroom. Over the summer, understanding she would teach students in-person in the future, she began to decorate her whiteboard and walls that now serve as the background for her lessons.
She broadcasts from a horseshoe table with her laptop and a monitor which allows her to see the grid view of her students’ faces so she can share her screen without losing sight of her students. Taylor School, which is newly renovated, will be ready for students to return soon.
“Our school is incredibly fortunate, updated with large classrooms,” Lima said. “it’s an amazing building and I was so excited, but maybe next year.”
If given the option to stay on board as part of the teaching staff for the next academic year, Lima undoubtedly wants to stay regardless of being remote or in-person.
“I still am a teacher here at Taylor,” she said. “I didn’t want to risk not being a teacher here if I chose to not take on the opportunity. Being a teacher here meant more to me than not wanting to do it at all.”
Lima’s daily schedule hasn’t wavered much from traditional in-person learning. It follows a typical 8 A.M. to 2:30 P.M. school day.
The day begins with a morning meeting with students to take attendance and summarize the day’s expectations and lessons. Students are expected to log onto Google Meets at 8:15 just as they would be expected to arrive at school on time. A period of independent morning work follows attendance where students are logged off and responsible to be working at home.
Throughout the day, students log back online for school subject lessons such as social studies, science and math. Students are allowed a normal lunch and recess break in the middle of the day followed by a non-academic course. Currently, students are in a 10-week learning session for music. Physical education, health and art classes each have their own 10-week increments. This is designed for students to have a consistent class schedule instead of rotating every other day and to reduce the exposure when hybrid learning begins. Lima meets again with the students in the afternoon to debrief the day, address any problems and gently remind them to log in on time the next morning.
With the introduction of remote learning, new technology has become convenient for students. Taylor School uses Clever, a program that serves as the home base for students to access their apps and websites to help them learn from home. A program called Relay is connected through the New Bedford Public Schools system on their Chromebooks to monitor students’ screens so Lima can observe her students’ progression on assignments.
Even with the help of these programs, Lima said she still encounters technical issues, teaching her third graders how to create a text box or insert an image. She said there is a struggle balancing equal time between figuring out the technical side and accomplishing academic learning.
“I’m happy at the end of the day to have a job, it’s still teaching so it’s still doing what I love,” she said. “There are still moments where I still have that same excitement as I would in person, but there are other moments where it feels very different and you wish things were back to normal.”
Lima acknowledges that since going virtual, the dependency on technology has increased. “Going forward, education in general will never look exactly the same,” she said. “Not only teachers but administrators are realizing all these things that can be done with technology. With instruction, we will be using technology a lot more because we all know the positives it can bring.”