The opportunities that co-exist with the challenges of distance learning:
How the teachers of Vista went above and beyond to keep Vista’s students on track

This isn’t your typical back to school week…

Walking through the aisles of Target has been a different experience for the past several months (it was feeling like low-stakes Hunger Games for a minute) but what has been most eye-opening lately is how different back to school shopping has felt. Yes, the signs and backpacks are still up on display, but we all know “back to school” does not mean back to routine. This year, it will mean back to distance learning; something many of you parents were thrown into last year without a guide or a clue.

My own family struggled with the challenges of distance learning with my youngest, Olivia, in her sophomore year of college as a Bio-Chem major. I remember talking to her when COVID -19 first started to be recognized as a threat, it was a Monday. Olivia explained that the school said there was nothing to worry about, and that everything was under control. By that Wednesday, students were ordered to leave the campus within 48 hours. Needless to say, we were not prepared. Suddenly, Olivia had to try and complete her Bio-Chem labs virtually, and in addition, my little over achiever decided to take 16 credits this semester, one of which was calculus. Let me just say that there were lots and lots of tears (some from her and some from me) and that there is nothing worse than watching your child go through something that you can’t control or help with (because calculus is beyond me.) But after lots of ice cream from Postmates, we made it through. As I look back upon this experience, as unbelievable as it has been, it has taught us a lot. When life takes an unexpected turn (even one that lasts as long as this one) you can persevere when you work together, even though it may require some tears and ice cream.

Which is why today I want to highlight and praise our entire teaching staff and the resourcefulness and dedication they demonstrated during this crisis. When the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 changed the classroom setting into the kitchen table, our teachers and school staff were there to make it work.

Just like your kitchen table, one thing we know about distance learning is that it does not look the same for every family. Not every family has the room to designate an area of their home as a learning space. Not every family has the technology or utilities to support online learning. And not all children process information the same way, which is why our small class sizes at Vista are so instrumental in their education. Finally, consider all those challenges and then factor in a student with an IEP and the specialized services they depend on to succeed in the classroom.

It was in these moments of navigating the unknown that Vista teachers, aides, and support staff have risen above and beyond; demonstrating that they could meet the needs of our students no matter the challenges presented. Dr. Didi Watts (our VP of Education) shared some of the exceptional ways our teachers bridged the gap created by distance learning. She spoke of assistants like Quincy Robinson, who drove across L.A. County to drop off printed lesson plans to every student. Or how families were provided with laptops and safely given in-person instruction on how to log on to teaching applications. From high school teachers turning P.E into Zumba on Zoom; to one behavioral specialist delivering a desk to a student who had nowhere but the floor to learn from; or educators like Leah De Veyra, understanding that it would be harder for students to engage, purchased prizes to incentivize her students. Sharing that, “this is just something I can do to show them that I know this is a tough time, but that I appreciate their effort and their willingness to persevere.” There is no shortness of teachers excelling to meet our students’ needs.

So, parents, I know this school year is unlike any other, and I understand your situation (on the best of days) is also in that category – unique. But I do know teachers like the ones we have at the Vista School, and throughout L.A County, have shown that they are committed to furthering your child’s education no matter the obstacles. We know this year will be different, but I know together, we will get through this.

Wishing you all a strong start to the school year.