*Editor's note: Nancy Barbara is a Canvas Teacher of the Year award recipient.
I never wanted to teach online. When I was first asked some 12 years ago, I turned down the opportunity. My colleagues at the college level said I would be doing a disservice to education by teaching online. My K-12 teacher friends laughed and said that it wasn’t really teaching; it’s just grading. I eventually left them all in the dust, and I am glad I did.
When I first started teaching online, I wondered how I would fuse the disconnect between teaching on the ground and teaching from my home office with my pajama bottoms on and a somewhat decent hair day on top. The words “student engagement, student engagement” ran through my head, and I took the challenge. I started wearing funky hats that were holiday themed, fingertip illumined gloves, and I even found a Ninja mascot that resembled my school mascot and placed it in my lap for encouragement with reluctant students.
I have always said that education, through any medium, has to be meaningful, moving and motivating. More importantly, if done right, it gives the most silent of students a voice.
Jeremy, a sixth grader (not his real name), was more than reluctant; he was scared. Our first online meeting he cried and said “I just want a real teacher, please!”. I chatted with his mother and she said that he was at the age where he needed to bond with his teacher, not bond with a computer. Jeremy ran out of the room and we never finished our lesson. I noticed he was wearing Spiderman pajamas. I hatched a plan and called him back in a few days. I put my pajama tops on and when he got on the screen, he giggled. He had on Superman pajamas. I shared with him my secret that I always wore my pjs to work and it made me feel more comfortable. We established a rapport. I was his pajama pal and I started teaching him superhero signs and even found a Deaf superhero for him to follow. I also told him that sometimes teaching online is hard and I borrow super powers from my Ninja.
Jeremy is my superhero, and I hope he knows that by now. He’s taken four sections of my course and signs like the wind. He taught me the lesson of relevancy and how I can turn any course in Canvas into a place where learners can feel safe, be heard and excel. I have always said that education, through any medium, has to be meaningful, moving and motivating. More importantly, if done right, it gives the most silent of students a voice.
Students make “Teacher of the Year” happen. And, it happened to me because of all the students like Jeremy.
American Sign Language Teacher, Pasco eSchool (Florida)