Virtual teachers prepare for the year of online teaching | New

As students and teachers return to class, some are doing so from the comfort of their homes.

For distance teachers, their “classroom” is entirely online. Melanie Barkley, executive director of the Alabama Virtual Academy at Eufaula City Schools, a statewide online public school, said classroom preparations for distance teachers are similar to those returning to a physical school.

Teachers logged on to training sessions last week, going over curricula and making sure everything is ready for the start of the school year. The only thing that is different is that they are not in a school building.

“They prep and prep the same way – lots of training for the platforms we use. And, of course, we’ve had all of our school public work, where we talk about our goals and the things we want accomplish as a staff,” Barkley said. “…So it’s very similar, like I said; everything is done virtually because they are all over the state.”

ALVA currently has 188 employees statewide who help educate 3,800 students enrolled in K-12 classrooms. Enrollment is slightly lower than last year, when they ended the school year with over 4,000 students.

However, Barkley said, more students typically enroll after the school year begins. She expects more people to sign up this year, especially now that distance learning is so well known.

“I think what’s happened as a result of the pandemic is parents have realized that’s definitely a different option for their families. And if it fits the needs of the family, you know that it’s there, and it’s a quality education,” Barkley said.

She said while online options have been available for years, the pandemic has made more people realize how useful virtual learning can be. At the height of the pandemic, ALVA recorded its highest number of enrollments, with more than 4,400 students.

Barkley looks forward to welcoming students back into the classroom on August 10, wherever their “classroom” is.

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