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Students and Teachers Welcome In-Person Learning

Episcopal started the school year virtually in the name of safety and began to transition to face-to-face learning after Labor Day weekend. Giving the option to families to keep students home, in addition to using bigger spaces on campus when needed for social distancing requirements, has necessitated a hybrid model of teaching. Microsoft Teams has been a mainstay technology application since last spring and has allowed to teachers to bring remote students into the classroom. The introduction of iPads has helped teaching students in several different locations. Eric Lerch, Ninth Grade Dean, says, "While we have been excited to welcome many students back to campus, we continue to explore ways to improve the experience of our remote learners. With new tools for teachers such as iPads, we are dedicated to making sure all of our students are engaged and included in classroom activities."

Virtual learning can never replace being in the classroom with the teacher, who can more easily tell when students need a teacher to slow down or stop to answer a question or two. Isaiah Coleman, Assistant 10th Grade Dean says, "The transition to in-person learning has been great, especially for the students who had challenges with virtual learning." Meghan Moake, 10th Grade Dean, adds, "The transition to face-to-face has been awesome because it has allowed me to further build relationships with my students and the sophomore class—and that was challenging to do through a computer!"

Episcopal has welcomed students back to the classroom and supported students who want to stay at home, an important aspect to the school's COVID reopening plan. As Mark Mitchell, 11th Grade Dean, says, "Of course, there's nothing like in-person learning, so we're happy to have students back on campus. But we also understand that many students and families feel it's important to remain virtual. Hybrid learning and teaching is tough, but if anyone can pull it off, it's the teachers at EHS."

Being in the classroom isn't the only benefit students receive from a school. Students coming together in a community has been vital for many. As Shelly Edmonds, Assistant 11th Grade Dean, puts it, "It has been wonderful to see our students back and being able to engage with one another. Although many things are different, the students are still able to eat lunch, meet with their advisory, and meet their teacher in person as well as their peers. It has also asked our teachers to be more creative in the classroom. Equipped with our new learning management system Canvas, we are able to create more interactive assignments that allow our hybrid students to be just as involved as our in-class students. For example, for me, the new system has encouraged me to incorporate new concepts into my original plans like discussion boards, edpuzzle, and a module of activities for the students to go through for the day. It's been very motivating to utilize all these new options to assist the students in a new way."

Technology like the iPad has made teaching much more productive in this new normal. Jessica Adams, 12th Grade Dean, adds, "The transition has been much easier than I expected. Although the hybrid model was intimidating at first, it has really forced me to hone my craft and think more critically about how I'm teaching. The iPads and tripods have been a blessing, and they've really helped with the transition. I have several students who are working remotely, and the new technology makes me feel more connected to them."

--Emma Tsai