Palisades Park School District
Course expansion: ASL
In preparation for the next school year, Superintendent Dr. Joseph Cirillo in Palisades Park School District polled the district’s high school students to find out what electives they would be interested in taking. When the results came back, his team was surprised to see that American Sign Language (ASL) was the most requested elective among the student population.
Immediately, Dr. Cirillo and his team focused on finding and hiring a local ASL teacher to meet their students' learning goals. Unfortunately however, they were not able to find qualified teachers who met the necessary requirements to teach within the district, i.e. those certified in New Jersey, the subject matter, and preferably with several years teaching experience.
The administration knew was that they did not want to offer an online asynchronous program. They wanted an actual teacher in front of their students to ensure they would have the best chance to succeed.
Hiring certified ASL teachers
Palisades Park School District looked around for solutions to their world language staffing dilemma and were referred to Proximity Learning from a nearby school district. At first they were skeptical because they had never seen Virtual K-12 Staffing.
After being given access to view a live class in another school district, they decided to do a pilot program the first year to see if this could be successful with their student population. During the first year, students were extremely happy, and the program was warmly received by the community. The students are now requesting ASL Level II for the following year.
Cresskill Public Schools
Business elective courses
Cresskill Public Schools was very proud of the business electives courses offered to their students. Over the years, they were able to consistently add new course options and open up more class sections for their high school students.
Unfortunately, like many school districts post-COVID, Cresskill lost several of the teachers leading their business electives program. This loss created a real concern, and the district was very close to canceling the entire program as they needed teachers certified to instruct Business Law, Introduction to Business, Marketing, and Closing Bell.
Finding teachers who were certified to teach these subjects seemed futile as zero candidates applied for the open positions. The district was gearing up to deliver the bad news to these students and their families.
Keeping the program open with virtual staffing
During a county meeting, Director of Curriculum Jessica Peck heard about a neighboring school district that was partnering with Proximity Learning to staff their vacant positions.
Immediately, when she got back to the school district, she reached out to Proximity Learning to set up a meeting to staff these courses. Within just three weeks, Proximity was able to identify teachers and successfully staff Business Law, Introduction to Business, Marketing, and Closing Bell. The district was excited to continue to offer these classes to their eager students.
Two months into the program with their students thriving, the parents, families, and community are thankful, and the district is making plans to renew and expand the partnership.
The Plainfield Public School District
Losing Algebra teachers
The Plainfield Public School District is located thirty minutes from New York City. With 98% of the student population being of African American or Hispanic descent, Plainfield was quick to feel the nationwide teacher shortage. In particular, the district was unable to secure permanent staffing options for their Algebra teacher vacancies.
Algebra has often been referred to as a “gatekeeper” course to higher learning—both in mathematics and other fields. Research shows that students who complete a mathematics course beyond the level of Algebra 1 are more than twice as likely to pursue and complete a postsecondary degree. Students who don’t do well in algebra compromise their career options, especially in the STEM fields. The question is no longer if students should take Algebra but rather when should students take algebra?
With current Algebra teachers leaving to take higher paid positions in neighboring school districts and little to no candidates applying for their positions, the potential for learning loss was going to be detrimental.
Math teachers in New Jersey
Like many schools across the state, the administration looked to their peers to see what methods were being used to offset the crisis. Facing an overwhelming staffing issue head-on, the district turned to the only tangible solution that would effectively bolster their students’ academic needs.
The school decided to partner with K-12 Virtual Staffing company, Proximity Learning, to allow certified teachers to deliver personalized math instruction through daily live streams. In addition to certified teachers, Proximity Learning offered Plainfield the option to opt in to their new Diversity Equity and Inclusion program (DEI) where they bring in certified international teachers with a similar demographic to their students into the classrooms.
This new program allowed their students to build trusting relationships with the teacher right away before they began instruction. Both students and families are excited about the program. The success of the classes have led to discussions on how to grow the program with additional course offerings.
Weehawken Township School District
Problem that grew into a true partnership
Weehawken Township School District is located in one of the most densely populated counties in New Jersey - which complicates the hiring process. They are constantly in competition with New York City and 30 other districts within driving distance for the same teachers.
At the beginning of the school year, the district realized they were going to lose their piano teacher. The Superintendent, Mr. Crespo, remembered a presentation he saw at a recent conference from Proximity Learning and tasked them with finding a piano teacher for the 1st period music class.
Within a short time, Proximity successfully found a piano teacher. Once the school year began, the students excelled and the district realized the value of virtual teachers through Proximity Learning.
Within the first month of the school year, a French and a Spanish teacher resigned. Similar to the piano teacher situation, they had no teachers applying for these roles. Again they turned to Proximity Learning for help. Within two weeks Proximity was able to provide certified Spanish and French teachers for their students, so they could ensure no learning loss.
Unfortunately, the saga continued. At the end of the first semester in December, two Algebra teachers resigned from the school district. For a third time, they posted for two Algebra teachers and had zero teachers apply with the appropriate credentials.
Once again, Weekawkin turned to Proximity Learning to expand the program to include two full-time Algebra teachers. Over the winter break, Proximity was able to hire, train, and provide two certified Algebra teachers. When the students returned, they would be able to continue their instructional journey with a certified teacher - without a hitch.
Continuing edtech partnership
Weehawken is grateful for the relationship with Proximity Learning as it prides itself on delivering instruction at a high level and did not want to turn to long-term substitutes or asynchronous options that could impact their students’ learning negatively.
They look forward to continuing the relationship in the future. They understand now that students never have to go a day without instruction, if they have the right partner behind them.