Since Gov. Roy Cooper closed North Carolina Public Schools for students on March 14 in response to the COVID-19 virus, teachers throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have been working to find innovative ways to reach students.
CMS Teacher of the Year Kim Tuttle is one of those teachers. Tuttle, who teaches language arts at Levine Middle College High, has been working to meet all her students' needs. "Support is the key to making sure your students' needs are being met – not only their academic needs, but making sure they are taking care of themselves through this," Tuttle said. "I've talked with parents through email and texts, making sure that I first focus on the mental health of my students. No matter if we're in the classroom or sitting behind the computer, I want my students to know their well-being will always come first."
For Tuttle, the hardest part of remote learning has been not seeing her students. She set up "Lunch, Learn and Laugh with Tuttle" on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. "This gives me an opportunity to not only discuss what is on the agenda for class, but to see how they are doing," said Tuttle. "Our kids are in need of being heard, so I will happily listen to their perspective."
Tuttle also maintains a school Instagram account where she mixes instruction with humor. "We have to remember, they are only children," said Tuttle. "They still need to live the life of a child."
Before remote learning began, Tuttle was using Google Classroom. Her students have always been able to access lessons and objectives through her website. "I am now providing them with supplemental tools to continue to meet the set skills and objectives," she said. "Parents and students are aware of the road maps and have access to all avenues of support."
Tuttle is often answering messages at midnight, challenging herself to find ways to communicate with her students. "There is so much value to the in-person relationship that is formed between a teacher and a student that makes the learning applicable and engaging," said Tuttle. "My classroom is an instructional tool. I am learning how to make the study in my home my classroom."
Tuttle is also finding ways for students to express themselves during the virus outbreak. "I've asked my students to keep a journal and write their own stories about this moment in their lives," she said. "This is a global, historical event that they should document because you never know what type of masterpiece will come from their pens."
Using new tools and ideas, Tuttle hopes to keep her students engaged and interested. "All I know is that my students are resilient and strong," said Tuttle. "I know that through this they will be able to conquer anything that comes their way."