Distance learning results in empty classrooms for some RCAS teachers


As of last week some Rapid City Area Schools have moved to Level 3, distance learning, due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Suzy Gab, SWMS Teacher

RCAS teachers and students are no strangers to distance learning – as they were thrown into the fire in March. Fast forward 9 months and the e-learning has made it’s way into the lives of all students and staff.

Suzy Gab, South West Middle School Social Studies Teacher, says, “I think most of my students have adapted really well to learning how to do this, some of them really, really like to be at home because they can wrap up in their blanket and have their dog or cat on their lap and other kids struggle because they need the physical interaction.”

Each class is set up differently, Gab says her virtual classroom is just like her in school set up.

Gab says, “I approach and teach things so that it is different and interesting and so I would say I treat it like I am teaching in my classroom – I think you don’t have to reinvest yourself to be a teaching on technology you just have to tweak a few things and look at it a little differently.”

Some classrooms have between 40-60 students at a time, that’s when a paraprofessional is there to help assist the teacher. Between the zoom classrooms and homework time, the students day evens out to be a normal 6 1/2 hour day.

Gab says the challenges to distance learning are minimal, like lag response time because of technical issues. The benefits include more flexible schedules for the kids and the health and safety of the student body.

Students have had to learn new technology for submitting assignments, which they practice when the school year started.

“I think it’s teaching them how to be those 21 century learners – it kind of forced us to push the envelope a little bit and learn some skills that they are going to need to go on into their future,” says Gab.

Jason Olson, SWMS Teacher

Gab says she feels more safe teaching online and although it can be a challenge to build relationships but it is doable and actually prefers zoom in the given circumstance of high COVID spread, saying, “With the zoom and joining in, I really try hard to make it feel like they are in my classroom and try to build that relationship, even over the computer. I can see their smiles on zoom and in the classroom with the masks, it’s a little bit harder.”

Suzy Gab, SWMS Teacher

The Woodruff family began distance learning at the beginning of the year and says the system has come a long way since March and they are enjoying the flexibility it offers as well as the lessons it is presenting.

Isla Woodruff, a 7th grader at SWMS, says,  “It is teaching me how to be independent – like I have to be self reliant on myself to do the assignments. I can’t always like ask a teacher for help. I kind of have to figure it out on my own so that been really good growth for me.”

Jan Woodruff, Isla’s mother, notes the effort made by the school staff saying, “The amount of work and time and effort these teachers are putting in, is beyond amazing and exhausting to think about so they are doing a great job.”

Each school schedule is set up differently depending on the classroom.

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