This month’s Proximity Learning webinar features host Dr. April Willis; Senior Manager of HR, John Rollack; Talent Acquisition Specialist Samantha White; and two virtual teachers, Leigh Nichols and Manuela Rodriguez-Morales. The panel discusses the benefits of remote teaching jobs and how to get a job for the 2022-23 school year that works better for you. Continue reading to get all the answers on what it’s like to teach from home with Proximity Learning.
Ms. Nichols teaches middle and high school mathematics. In 2009, she learned about virtual learning and started teaching asynchronous. When she found out about Proximity’s live, synchronous model in 2016, she jumped at the opportunity.
Ms. Rodriguez teaches high school Spanish and lives in Tampa, Florida. After dealing with years of long commutes to work, she decided to make the change to transition into virtual teaching.
What is your advice to educators thinking about teaching virtually?
Leigh Nichols: Ask yourself, “why are you doing this?” and write that down. It may take a month or so until you see a real result, but in time, the success of the students is evident. You will have great teacher-student interaction, but you may want to remind yourself as you’re going through it because it feels different, but it's worth it.
Manuela Rodriguez-Morales: I would suggest becoming familiar with some of the popular digital tools like Quizlet or Kahoot. Those platforms have some features that you don't necessarily use in the brick-and-mortar classroom, but you will utilize them in the virtual classroom.
What are some advantages of teaching virtually with Proximity Learning?
Leigh Nichols: You don't have to pay gas to go to work. That's the most important thing right now. I actually obtained my doctoral degree while I was here, so I was able to create my own schedule and study. I also was able to take care of a sick parent, so these things were very beneficial to me.
Manuela Rodriguez-Morales: I am not physically as tired. You can really focus on the relationships with your students. When you’re in the brick-and-mortar building, there are so many distractors on a daily basis. That doesn’t happen with Proximity because you only focus on the instruction and the students. To me, that was an advantage.
What are the differences between teaching virtually versus brick-and-mortar roles?
Manuela Rodriguez-Morales: You spend the majority of your day actually teaching. Another difference would be it's two people handling a group of students because you have the facilitator with you—if you're in the brick-and-mortar classroom, you're by yourself. If you're teaching virtually, you have your right hand in the classroom, so this person is handling certain aspects of the day and you're handling instruction so that alleviates a lot.
Leigh Nichols: Virtual teaching allows you to focus on building your lessons and creating a plethora of activities for students to learn math concepts, or whatever it is you're teaching. You also have the opportunity, as you mentioned, to collaborate with people all over the country to see how other schools are doing it. I've grown so much professionally and really just as a person because of the people that I have met. I’ve been in school all this time, but I've now had this new opportunity to work with all these people, which has helped me grow and give more to my students.
How flexible is scheduling for classes?
John Rollack: The beauty of PLI is that you can actually pick and choose the times that you teach. So if you want to work a half-day and take your kids to school and then work and pick them up from school, that is perfectly fine. You don't have to pay for after-school care and you can really spend more time with them. If you want to help your kids with homework, you can do that. You can also work a full day if you want to. We have classes that you can pick and choose to work from eight to five.
Does Proximity Learning offer professional development? What types of PD?
Samantha White: We conduct weekly office hours for additional help with canvas or zoom. Then we also have PD once a month with our teacher effectiveness team. We do coffee talks to try to build that teacher community as well.
What benefits are available to Proximity Learning teachers?
John Rollack: You can get full benefits, whether you work full time or part-time with us, we all have the same benefits, which I think is beautiful. We have full dental, and vision, and you can also add your family and your spouse on if you choose to do so. If you do not need benefits, you can decline them, but we want to make sure all of our teachers are supported.
We just started a mental health benefit where every afternoon we have office hours available if you just need to talk. Because we know teaching is really hard and working remotely can be isolating at times.
Do teachers have to build their own curriculum?
Samantha White: Teachers do still need to lesson plan, and lesson planning is going to be in accordance with district pacing guides and state standards. PLI has a curriculum that we provide for our teachers as a starting point.
How is reciprocity handled across different states?
John Rollack: We follow state guidelines for the state your class is in. Sometimes districts will ask our teachers to become certified in their home states, meaning if they're teaching in Alabama, they need to be Alabama certified. PLI will pay for that process, and we just hired a certification specialist who will manage this. She will walk you through this to make sure you are supported because it can be very daunting. This also makes you more marketable because now you're licensed in multiple states, instead of just in Texas or North Carolina or Florida whichever state you live in. We want to make you more marketable and a better teacher if you decide to broaden your horizons later.
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