On a Thursday afternoon, Proximity Learning physics teacher Marcia Hammond found out her students at Duncanville High School would be learning virtually from home beginning the next Monday due to the spread of COVID-19. While she had been teaching online all school year, she was concerned her students wouldn’t get the learning experience they needed while juggling classes with home life.
“Proximity Learning was already there and we were already a constant and I think that that’s what the students needed,” Hammond said. “A constant to fall back on when they weren’t able to go see their friends and other kids in person.”
Since Hammond teaches an upper-level course, a few of her students were suddenly faced with graduating into unknown circumstances. Nervous and concerned, she said they would log on to her class early or stay after to share their concerns about job opportunities or transitioning to college.
“They found out that they weren’t really on their own,” Hammond said. “That we’re there to support them.”
By connecting with her students individually, Hammond was able to help them succeed during a difficult time by reviewing concepts that applied to their specific interests. One of her students was not able to frequently log into class due to having to do construction work to help his family. To keep him refreshed on topics, she said they spoke about the different tools he uses that give him a mechanical advantage due to physics.
“We were able to do specific, ... differentiated reviews that helped them to grow, and really, to me, that’s what teaching is all about,” Hammond said. “As long as a student is able to learn something new or be able to apply whatever it is I am trying to teach them, that means the world to me.”
When Hammond spoke with this student about his life after graduation, he shrugged his shoulders and said it was going to be the end of the road for him in regards to education. She said he didn’t believe he could do anything after graduation, but she saw how intelligent he was and his capability to do so much more.
Hammond’s conversations with him expanded beyond the review of physics. While he had no interest in attending a large university, she said she began looking into local options for him to continue learning and growing in construction.
“This was a challenge for me because … Duncanville is in Texas and I am in North Carolina,” Hammond said. “So, what I needed to do was do some research on my own about different … education opportunities for either a two-year college or a four-year college or a certificate that might be suitable for this young man’s interests.”
Hammond said he had never heard of contractor’s licenses and mentorship opportunities before, so she provided him with names of different colleges in his area and helped him gather the credentials he needed. Through her guidance, she was excited to say that he has a possibility for an apprenticeship for a local contractor in Dallas.
“He’s looking forward to something and I think that is important in this time of unknown,” Hammond said. “They’re looking forward to something that will keep their mind busy [and] keep their hands busy so they’re just not sitting around and doing nothing.”
Hammond said she was the first one in her family to consider and go to college because one of her own teachers believed in her. Hammond said her teacher knew the situation of her family and took it upon himself to tell her she had what it took to go to college. That relationship with her teacher continues to inspire her motivation to help her students no matter their circumstances.
“I’m a scientist,” Hammond said. “I’m a problem solver, so if there’s any way possible to help [then] I want to help. I know that I wouldn’t be here where I am had a teacher not helped me, because I was one of those kids.”
Especially in an unprecedented time with COVID-19, many high school seniors are nervously graduating into the unknown. Since her high school continued to use Proximity Learning during their closure, Hammond was able to continue connecting with her seniors online and be a constant, guiding hand for them during the rocky road to their virtual graduation.
“There’s so many stories out there of students that don’t know where to go, and I was one of them,” Hammond said. “They each have different circumstances. Some come from families that expect them to go to college and it might be reversed. Those students might not want to go to college, but there are other different things that they can do with education. … Education is the only way that they can find out about what they want to do to better their lives.”