Teacher Spotlight - Robin Long

Virtual learning expanded with nine full-time elementary teachers
Posted on 09/18/2020
Robin Long teaching students virtually(SPS) - Standing outside the closed door to classroom 307 at Jefferson Heights Elementary, you can hear singing, laughing, reading, and teaching.

And if you get really close to the door, you can just make out the slight voices of the tiniest of students. It’s what you expect if you were to eavesdrop on a Pre-K or Kindergarten classroom. In fact, you’re more than likely visualizing the classroom setting in your mind right now.

“I don’t have students in the classroom this year,” Mrs. Long said. “I’m teaching for the Pre-K and Kindergarten Virtual Academy.”

Those sounds were Mrs. Long meeting with her students virtually.

“We do everything online through our computer.”

Open the door to walk into the classroom and what you see is the new normal for many teachers this year. Chairs without students. Desks without materials. Watercolors without water. And, a lone teacher sitting in a chair hovering over a Chromebook on a roll-away cart. In her 22 years of teaching, Mrs. Long is experiencing something never before in her career, educating virtual students full-time.



“It’s very different from being in the classroom.”

It’s a new experience for eight other Sapulpa Public Schools elementary teachers as well. With more than 450 full-time virtual students in Pre-K through 5th grades, the school district made adjustments in its workforce and asked nine teachers to transition from the classroom experience to the virtual experience.

“As soon as we saw the submission requests coming in for enrollment in Sapulpa Virtual Academy, we realized we needed to reallocate some of our resources,” said Donia Doudican, Director of Instructional Design. “In order to make sure we were putting our virtual students in the best possible position to succeed, we have certified teachers helping provide the high-quality education Sapulpa Public Schools aims to deliver.”

Along with those teachers is a newly created Elementary Virtual Coordinator position that oversees the program.

“It’s going pretty well. He seems to really enjoy it,” said one father responding to Mrs. Long asking how his son is doing.

Parents aren’t typically in a classroom, so having a dad or mom present in a Google Meets session is something teachers, especially the full-time virtual elementary school teachers, are adapting to.

“It’s new to everybody. It’s new to us. Of course, it’s new to the kids and new to their families, so it’s just me really working with the parents and guiding them to make the most success for their child in the virtual world,” said Mrs. Long.

This non-traditional experience is certainly new for many, including Mrs. Long who would have had her mind on her well-being a bit more often in a traditional classroom experience.

“I had some health issues in the past and I’m in remission from AML, which is leukemia,” she said. “It really decreases my exposure to others and just keeps me really safe, so I really appreciate them bringing this to me."

Back in the empty classroom, Mrs. Long nears the end of “Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes”, the book she’s reading to her students. She pauses to ask a question about the story and smiles from ear to ear when she hears a student's correct answer coming from the laptop.

“I really look forward to the day of having kids back in the classroom with me,” she said. “I do miss the kids in my class.”

For now, Mrs. Long will continue checking in on her students’ progress and having Google Meets sessions while being supportive and appreciative of this experience for everyone.

“I know everyone has their reason, you know, parents as to why they might need to choose virtual or what they’re most comfortable with and for Sapulpa to give those options to the kids,” she said. “I think it’s really great for parents to have those options, and I would highly recommend it.”

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Sapulpa Virtual Academy is free, online delivery of instruction for students in Pre-K through 12th grades. For elementary students, it is a commitment of nine weeks. For secondary students, it is at least a one-semester commitment. You can read more about SVA here.
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