Last fall you’d often see PE teacher Jessica Anderson at either Haines Elementary or South Baker Intermediate school surrounded by her students, a cup of coffee in hand as she prepared to put the kids through their paces.
Half a year later, Anderson’s class preparation includes a computer, a video camera and editing software.
“This is something the entire country of PE teachers were doing,” Anderson said this week. “I like to give personal videos because I feel like the kids need to still see me, they still need consistency.”
Anderson, in common with educators around Baker City and elsewhere, were faced with changes in their daily routines due to coronavirus pandemic.
While other teachers can transfer their classroom instruction to the screen, PE teachers faced a different challenge.
“We just started brainstorming ideas of what that would look like,” said Matt Banta, PE teacher at Baker High School.
Because the school closure instituted in March was originally intended to be temporary, before Oregon Gov. Kate Brown extended it through the rest of the academic year, teachers prepared for both possibilities.
“Initially we were hoping to come back so we kind of came up with a contingency plan for both,” Banta said.
He’s using the Google Classroom online platform to continue teaching even as schools are closed.
“We are providing kids with suggested workouts to complete, ultimately they are being asked to complete a physical activity log for the week,” Banta said.
Since he’s not able to monitor his students directly, Banta said he’s being reasonable with his expectations.
“We are trying to be as flexible as possible, on the (physical activity) log,” he said. “We are asking for a parent-guardian signature to verify they have done the activity.”
Anderson, who works with elementary students, said accountability isn’t her biggest concern.
Both she and Banta have to address the possibility that not all students will have access to the equipment they’re accustomed to having at school. So they improvise.
“We worked to create a list of basic household items that can be used for weight training,” Banta said.
Knowing that not all of her students could have the necessary equipment, Andersen also looks into household items to encourage her students to keep moving.
“I just did a little juggling unit, and knowing that my kids don’t have bean bags at home, I have them get a pair of socks and a rubber band and they practice their juggling with a pair of socks,” Anderson said.
Anderson even taught her students to build their own running obstacle course, and then she demonstrated with her own.
“I was in my front yard and I took cushions off of my outside patio and I hurdled over that and ran around my pots,” Anderson said. “I told the kids to make their obstacle course inside or outside.”
Anderson and Banta said remote teaching has reminded them how vital it is to have social interaction with their students.
Anderson, who works with more than 500 students, misses her time with the kids.
“I see kiddos at Haines and South Baker every other day, and I don’t anymore,” she said. “I worry about them and just having that interaction, I really miss that.”