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Creative ways teachers adapt to distance learning

By Maia Marquez Published Nov 05, 2021 5:00 am

While the lockdown has been robbing students of the experience of sitting in a classroom, creating an atmosphere of teaching and learning through the screen is a challenge many, if not all, educators are facing today.

Distance learning may not be the ideal educational setup especially for young children, yet these teachers have found creative solutions to not just give their kids a world-class learning experience, but to also hone other skills and shape their values to give them the brightest future possible.

For mamas and their minis

A Montessori preschool teacher prior to the pandemic, teacher Hannah Malate found it quite challenging to adjust to having to educate kids online: “How do you gauge what your students are really thinking?” and “How do you build relationships through the screen?”

As one who enjoys spoiling her students during the holidays, Hannah sourced different toys to create Christmas gifts for each kid last year. But because of the lockdown, stocks arrived very late, and she had to sell them online instead. To her surprise, they sold out quickly!

This awakened her to another passion: entrepreneurship. So this, together with her love for children, pushed her to start Mama & Mini, (formerly Kidz and Co.), an online platform that sells specially curated toys.

For Teacher Hannah, there is power in learning through play — so through Mama & Mini, she advocates for “fostering a safe space for children of all ages and abilities to learn, create, and make sense of the world around them.”

Though it’s a struggle to juggle a business and be an educator, she shares that each “Teacher Hannah, I like you” she hears, parents taking the time to say they appreciate what she does, and even the tantrums at the end of class because kids don’t want to leave yet are what make this whole journey of distance learning worth it.

Add to (c)art

Teacher Tin Ilagan was set to move to Singapore to continue teaching preschoolers. But the quarantine began and borders closed, so she had to figure out a new game plan.

Through her experience as head teacher of different progressive schools, she’s learned that play is an essential part of learning. “Experiential learning is a great way to build a child’s love for learning,” she shares.

She’s always enjoyed making her lesson plans and creating activities, and together with her interests in art, design and photography, this led her to create EducArt by Tin, an online platform that makes laminated educational materials to help parents homeschool their kids. Through her work, she aims to enhance children’s creativity, curiosity and motor skills.

In just a year, she has created different laminated activities and sold over a thousand learning tools worldwide, despite challenges with having a lean team. She hopes to partner up with schools, tutorial centers and even bookstores, so other teachers and their students can have access to her materials.

“I love being a part of (the kids’) growths!” she shares.

Ultimately, because of the success of EducArt, teacher Tin is making it her mission to connect with public schools and street children as her way of making an impact in shaping the future of the next generation.

Towards a brighter future

At just five years old, teacher Salve Fabie’s first students were her cats. Since then, she knew she wanted to be a preschool teacher just like her mom Sol, the namesake of Bright School of Online Learning or Bright SOL.

For Salve, “sol” means several things: first, the musical note, which inspired her to use music as a tool to facilitate learning; second, it is the Spanish word for “sun,” to symbolize children’s bright futures; and third, it’s a way to pay homage to her mother, a preschool teacher and administrator for 30 years and counting.

Difficulties, whether through distance learning or not, may be constant, “but so is the objective to help children the best way we know how,” she shares. And so, Bright SOL innovates by making use of a lot of music and movement, breathing activities, arts and crafts, and food preparation, among others, to engage all senses and give her students a holistic learning experience.

In the future, Bright SOL’s curriculum will include Mindfulness and Mental Health, as teacher Salve will pursue further studies in psychology, with her goal to offer psychotherapy to children with anxiety and depression.

And while she admits that the online setup isn’t ideal, what encourages her are the LSS moments her kids have after singing along to Bright SOL’s original songs, as well as every “Thank you” or “I love you” she gets from three-year-olds who were too shy to speak before.

Munting Bayani, big goals

While teaching virtually might seem far-fetched for medical student Sam Santos and former real estate agent Celine Itchon, their passions for children, creativity and sharing knowledge led them to start Munting Bayani, a virtual FIlipino classroom for kids and teens all over the world. Their experiences growing up here and having relatives abroad was just icing on the cake.

Munting Bayani’s ultimate goal is to “utilize language as a tool in fostering appreciation for culture, love for country, and compassion for countrymen.” But for teachers Sam and Celine, it’s quickly become a way for them to be better Filipinos who are able to share much of what they’ve been given.

For Sam, “knowing there are parents out there longing for a way to connect their kids to Filipino culture” is what pushes her to rise to expectations. And for Celine, she finds motivation in “seeing the children’s lightbulb moments… and excitement in sharing what they’ve learned with friends and family.” 

Through classes they conduct and as a means to help their students become socially aware of issues faced by Filipino students, they’re able to donate some of their proceeds to help public schools procure materials for online learning.

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These days, teachers are frontliners, too. And not only are they imparting knowledge to their students, but they’re also making impactful contributions to society that go beyond teaching, at a time when they’re needed most.

And so now and always, it’s important to remember that teachers are shaping the future in more ways than meets the eye.