From teaching through a pandemic to opening a brand new office, 2020 saw many challenges and new beginnings for Proximity Learning. As we near the end of the first month of a new year, we’ve had time to reflect on what our 2020 looked like.
Teaching Through a Pandemic
We can't look back on 2020 without looking at the transition our teachers made from helping students learn in school to home due to the pandemic. In April, Proximity Learning teacher Lizette De Luna said her school took a week off to readjust for online learning.
“The initial part of it was difficult, but I think it’s like that with everything,” De Luna said. “When something is new, you just have to have time to get acclimated to it.”
Spanish teacher Cori Allan said her and her students were set up to be successful with distance learning because that’s what they had been doing for a couple of months before the pandemic closed the doors of schools across the United States. She said her primary goal during a difficult transition was to provide her students with routine and stability.
“I just want to be somebody that is routinely there, that is providing a safe space and is making them feel loved,” Allan said. “If that’s all that I achieve throughout the rest of this pandemic, then I think I will count it as being successful.”
In some of our classes, we saw greater success in 2020 than we ever had before. Proximity Learning Chinese teacher Hsin-wei Grace Chang saw the highest number of her students get a passing score on the AP Chinese exam in the spring of 2020.
When Chang received the grade report for the AP Chinese exam that semester, she found that 40 out of 41 of her students scored a passing rate of a 3 or higher.
“I really appreciate this opportunity [to] teach AP Chinese at PLI,” Chang said. “We started designing the AP Chinese curriculum in 2016, so just four years and our students got such a successful result in an AP exam. That’s very encouraging.”
But, it wasn’t just our AP Chinese students that achieved great success during the pandemic due to the guidance of our dedicated teachers.
Placing Students First
In a study conducted by Chicago State University in July of 2020, it was found that Proximity Learning students did not suffer the same challenging barriers that brick-and-mortar classes encountered because they and their teachers were already familiar with the technology, software, and learning online.
Beyond the pandemic, the study also found that the average grade of a Proximity Learning student is about 6% higher than the U.S. core average of 74.4% and is right on track with the national middle and high school average of 80%.
In a survey filled out by over 800 Proximity Learning students at the end of the 2020 school year, about 85% of students said they felt supported in their learning by their Proximity Learning teacher during the pandemic.
“My teacher has been extremely kind and helpful during this stressful time,” said a 9th-grader from Wyoming County Schools. “I am very much so thankful for her!”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Proximity Learning science teacher Casey Harris said her virtual classes were a time to give students back some of their social structure. She would prioritize allocating class time for her students to learn while interacting with each other through review games and experiments.
“It gives them that chance to play while they’re learning and get to talk to each and see each other,” Harris said. “I think that’s super important.”
2020 was a difficult year for everybody, but especially for K-12 students - fortunately, Proximity Learning had been unknowingly preparing for a huge shift to remote learning over the past ten years.
Not only were we prepared to teach through a pandemic, but we actually managed to grow in many ways over the course of the year. We expanded the amount of students we teach, the amount of districts we teach in, the amount of teachers that work with us, and the size of our management team based in Austin, TX.
The Proximity Learning management team also made the move from Downtown Austin to new offices in the city’s fastest growing neighborhood, East Austin. This is Proximity Learning’s first-ever dedicated office space - we previously worked in shared office spaces like WeWork - and will serve as a foundation for the company to grow years into the future. It will enable us to do things like staff a support team directly in the office, be more active in Austin’s small business community, and host partner schools when they are in Austin for conferences.
We’re beyond proud to be working with large districts like Chicago, Milwaukee, Dallas, Shelby County in Tennessee, along with smaller districts across the country; it proves that our methodology is scalable and directly relates to our new company mission to Connect All Learners with the Expert Teachers They Deserve.
While this has always been a goal for Proximity Learning, we wanted to make sure that this new mission was instilled in every teacher, every corporate employee, and every client that works with us. No matter where students are located, we’re connecting them with an educator that can make a true impact on their upbringing.
By the Numbers - 2019-20 vs 2020-21
80% increase in # of Teachers
49 new client districts
6 new positions created on management team