Richmond Heights Local Schools struggled to find world language teachers in their local area, let alone multilingual teachers licensed to teach more than one language. The small district was forced to offer just a single language option to students, limiting their academic experience. Principal Marnisha Brown said, “Our students would be pushed into one track. They wouldn’t get to choose which world language to study.” When Superintendent Dr. Renée T. Willis found Proximity Learning, she was thrilled to find a solution to fill the district’s language teacher vacancies.
Richmond Heights Local Schools has now worked with Proximity Learning for four years to offer students the Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese and Latin courses they would not otherwise have access to. Dr. Willis says, “Being a small school district, we lacked the human capital to provide variety, so we tried Proximity for our world languages. It took off like hotcakes. It was phenomenal.”
“We are a very small district. We are a majority-minority district. We are a highly impoverished district. A lot of people don’t expect the vast opportunities. We want to be innovative and provide our students with opportunities to take any language that they want. Proximity was a godsend, to say the least,” Dr. Willis explains.
Educational Equity through Program Expansion
When asked how working with Proximity Learning has provided educational equity to the district, Dr. Willis says, “Equity is being able to present an opportunity to all students. All students have the opportunity to take whatever world language they want to take. In the past, it was Spanish only. For our Hispanic students, that’s not exciting. They want a different language so here we have the opportunity to take Mandarin or Latin, something different. It’s opportunity and equity for all, but it’s still excellence. Our model has always been educational excellence with equity for all.”
“Proximity Learning has truly broken down that barrier and has allowed us to provide students with opportunities they would never have, had we not had Proximity. They provide that with certified teachers and the ability to access the content without any gimmicks, without the district having to jump through any hoops. It is true, authentic instruction,” said Principal Brown.
Why Administrators Recommend Proximity Learning
Principal Brown would “absolutely, without a doubt” recommend Proximity Learning to other administrators.
“What it offers allows administrators to be put at ease in regards to content, equity, ensuring that students are meeting state standards. One of the great things that I love about it is that it took the pressure off me from having to hire, ensure folks licenses were appropriate, and make sure they had everything they needed. Proximity is that broker for us. [...] Those are pieces as an administrator that you want to get to the actual learning. [...] You can be pulled away from some of the bureaucracy of hiring and compliance, and it only bodes well for student achievement.”
Dr. Willis says, “The reality is we are not going to be able to hire multiple language teachers. We’re a very small district, however, we want to be innovative and provide our students with opportunities to take any language they want. Before Covid, our board members were a little apprehensive, but Covid taught us all that we can do virtual learning with many platforms. Proximity and our virtual learning just continued, and now we’re discussing adding more classes other than world languages so that we can be on par with some of the large districts that have the scale to actually have those teachers there in-house.”