Despite School Closures, this Illinois School District’s Classes Flourished

Written by Christina Peebles

June 5, 2020

Blog | COVID-19

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS — Armstrong Township High School was not set up to be an online school. As the school closed its doors for the semester earlier than expected due to the spread of COVID-19, many teachers and students struggled with the transition to virtual learning. But in the school’s Spanish classes, the students had been taught by certified teachers via live video-conference all school year in partnership with Proximity Learning Inc. (PLI), an ESS company.

“Technically we were already doing [remote learning] with our Spanish classes so there wasn’t much of a change for them moving forward,” said principal Darren Loschen. “It was a little bit smoother than a lot of our other classes.”

Armstrong Township High School just finished its third year of partnership with PLI. As a school in a small, rural district in Illinois, Loschen said they have had no luck finding a new Spanish teacher to replace the last one who moved on. To fill the gap in their education, he visited another school that had been using PLI.

“[We] watched a lesson for a couple of periods and decided, ‘Hey, let’s give that a try,’” Loschen said. “Still no instructor. [We] actually had an instructor for a semester, but then that instructor chose to move on and that’s usually what happens in a small school district. So after that, we decided [to] give Proximity a try.”

Despite a lack of success with the virtual teacher in their first year of partnership, PLI has since worked to provide the high school with different high-qualified educators that better fit the needs of the students and administrators. Loschen said the new instructors in the second year were “a whole lot better.” He said he has seen improvement and success with the partnership over the last two years and is excited for PLI’s updates moving forward.

As classes transitioned remotely at Armstrong Township High School, the in-class facilitator continued to be involved with the PLI classes to answer questions. Loschen said a majority of students were active as they learned from home, but some students at their school live in rural areas that have no internet access. For those students, he said they organized paper packets for them to stay on track.

Because the PLI teacher had been teaching virtually all year, the Spanish classes transitioned smoothly with the students learning from home since they were familiar with the technology. Moving forward, Loschen said he hopes to look at professional development for his own staff that will help them be more prepared for online learning.

“I think it’s a great service,” Loschen said. “I’m glad we found it because we did not want to not offer a foreign language, so that’s one of the reasons we continued to use it and want to use it.”

About Proximity Learning Inc.: Proximity Learning Inc. is an online education service company catering to students ranging from kindergarten to high school. Proximity Learning has served over 150 school districts and instructs over 50,000 students annually. Proximity Learning has been rated as one of the top K-12 online education services in the nation, boasting the highest quality teachers, most innovative online classrooms, and the reputation as a flexible learning solution to both public and private school districts. Written by Christina Peebles. Learn more at

About ESS: Established in 2000, ESS is a leading national provider of managed solutions in PreK-12 education. It recruits, hires, trains, places, and manages qualified substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, and other support staff for school districts in 27 states throughout the United States. Each day, the organization fills more than 15,500 daily, long-term, and permanent school assignments for more than 700 district partners serving over 2.5 million students. For more information, call (877) 983-2244 or visit

Related Articles

Math and Music Mix in this Teacher’s Online Classes

Math and Music Mix in this Teacher’s Online Classes

Drums, tambourines, congos, cabasas, and bongos often make a guest appearance in Dion Lucas’ classroom. Growing up under her mom’s dedication and passion for music and teaching, she said she hopes to continue passing down that love for learning to the next generation...

Top 10 Things Teachers Need to Effectively Prepare for Online Classes

Top 10 Things Teachers Need to Effectively Prepare for Online Classes

Besides when schools closed due to COVID-19 at the end of the previous school year, you may have never taught online before in your life. With the first day of school just around the corner, you may be wondering how to engage students and make your lessons more...