Finding a Silver Lining: COVID-19 and Online Learning
By Magan Keith | 8th Grade Teacher at Wendell Middle School
Like any educator you would talk to right now, the 2019-2020 school year has been one that I know I will never forget.
My name is Magan Keith and I am an 8th grade English/Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at Wendell Middle School. I’ve been teaching for 12 years, all in Wake County Public Schools. I am a proud product of Kannapolis City Schools and my experience there sparked a passion in me to teach and help kids understand that they are important and can do anything they set their minds to do. One of my favorite ways to help my students grow is through Project-Based Learning (PBL). This type of learning presents students with real-world questions and problems to work through.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to participate in WakeEd Partnership’s SummerSTEM program. I attended the week-long program with one of my colleagues, a 6th grade teacher from Wendell Middle. Together, during our SummerSTEM immersions, we visited, toured, and met with folks from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Through these experiences, my teammate and I created a project-based learning unit that posed a question to our students: “Why would the early settlers choose North Carolina as a place to call home?”
PBL requires a tremendous amount of critical thinking, so when I introduced it to my students for the first time, they were not thrilled. They very quickly changed their minds as I explained the steps that we would take together to create our final product. They were most excited for the opportunity to meet a real-life geologist and share what they have learned with 6th grade students.
The best part of this experience was watching students who struggle to engage in learning or to turn in work on time become engaged experts on the geography of North Carolina, as they worked at their own pace and still met deadlines.
In March, my students and I faced the most difficult obstacle of our school year: the transition to online learning. I was worried they would check-out and not continue learning.
Boy, was I wrong! Because of what my students had experienced this school year with PBL, the transition to online learning has been a success! Of course, we’ve had obstacles to overcome, but it has been amazing to see my students rise to the occasion. The best part about online learning has been watching my students advocate for themselves and continue to grow as learners.
I cannot close out my thoughts without celebrating my wonderful students and their families. Congratulations to the 8th Grade Class of 2020! I am so proud of each and every one of you. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to be your teacher. Thank you for pushing me to be better. I look forward to hearing about the amazing things you’ll accomplish along your journey!