SUNNYSIDE — Sunnyside Christian High School math teacher Jeremy Van Dam misses being able to interact with his students the most as he grapples with the challenges of teaching remotely.

As a fifth-year teacher at the private high school, Van Dam has never taught an online class. He had looked at programs and technology applications in the past, but it was something that Van Dam had never considered applying in his classroom. He much prefers in-person instruction.

“It’s really difficult to get the interaction. I think it’s such a big part of the job to interact with your students so that you know where they are, what they’re understanding, what they’re not understanding,” Van Dam explained.

The math teacher stressed when sending out packets of work for his students to return filled out, he worries about whether the students completed the work themselves or even fully understood the content.

Van Dam conveyed that students are anxious about looking stupid or being judged, but “you can always draw that out of them in person and reassure them, but all of that is just gone.”

He has spoken with many of his students and some of them are indeed frustrated, however, some students enjoy the freedom of being able to build their own schedules.

The Christian high school has been using Microsoft Teams in order to talk in chat rooms or have virtual meetings so Van Dam can clearly convey lessons. He also records the meetings and posts them for students to watch later if they missed out on the live streaming.

Sunnyside High School Language Arts teacher and the Instructional Technology Coach for Sunnyside School District, Tyler Rablin agrees that being able to connect to students is imperative.

When approaching online learning, Rablin stated, “It has to start with making sure kids still feel connected. Teachers are putting hours and hours to feel connected to their students.”

Rablin believes that the silver lining in the closure of school classrooms is the new connections he’s built with his freshman English class.

“I have gotten to know my students better in the last month than I have the entire rest of the year in class,” Rablin declared. “I would never wish this again ever, but I think there have been some really cool things on the student side to connect in really powerful ways.”

The technology coach also articulated on how teachers in the district are working tirelessly to ensure their students are being taught in the best way possible given the circumstances.

“Teachers are becoming more comfortable with making videos for their students. Everyone seems to be learning so much right now,” Rablin added.

Elizabeth Sustaita can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 114 or email esustaita@sunnysidesun.com.

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