McDowell County Schools, WV
McDowell County Schools, located in West Virginia, had difficulty recruiting and retaining qualified teachers and substitutes due to their remote location. Being in a poor county, many substitutes could not afford to obtain the requirements to become a certified teacher. One of their English Language Arts teaching positions had been vacant for two years. Students and parents were concerned with kids not learning the content they needed to know, the state of their grades and receiving high school credit needed to graduate. Due to the high turnover of teachers, students were struggling with feeling belonged. The district had previously attempted implementing online classes, but found the structure to be impersonal and unbeneficial to student success. The courses would have students go online, watch videos and take tests on the content. Associate superintendent Dr. Ingrida Barker desired a more personal solution to their teacher shortage.
When McDowell County Schools was introduced to Proximity Learning (PLI), they found an innovative opportunity to meet the needs of their students while engaging them with a better online learning experience. Dr. Barker said this model of online learning is more personalized, as it provides face-to-face communication with a highly-qualified and certified teacher multiple times a week through live video. The students are able to interact and build relationships with the teacher and ask questions outside of class. PLI adjusts to the structure of the school by using their textbooks, following their standards and fitting into their schedule. Beyond the students, Dr. Baker took advantage of the opportunity to use PLI as a professional development program for their own teachers. By cycling their teachers into the in-class facilitator role to monitor the students and assist the PLI teacher with lessons, they are able to learn and gain skills by watching a certified teacher teach.