Seventeen new faculty members join the school, adapt to different learning conditions
With virtual learning from Aug. 25-Sept. 8 and changes to campus life due to COVID-19, new teachers face unique challenges while starting the school year.
Seventeen new teachers have joined the school community, and they had to find ways to teach safely while becoming a part of the ESD community. The new Upper School teachers are Doug Jordan, Nadaha Garcia, Phil Mosley, Juan Negroni, Betsy King and Cristina Gonzalez.
“Being new to any school in a typical year is always exciting and challenging, but combining that with meeting new students in the virtual world adds a layer of complexity and anxiety on top of everything,” Jordan, the new Band Director, said. “Rising to the challenge of meeting everyone from a distance, most often through a computer screen, and missing the natural cadence of conversation and interaction will make the start of this school year quite possibly one of the most memorable, and certainly the most unique of my years in teaching.”
Once in-person teaching began the week of Sept. 8, Jordan adapted the band class’s in-person curriculum to be safe. To do this, students must have special masks for themselves and their instruments while they play and remain socially-distant in the classroom or their new outside playing area. Additionally, Jordan has introduced a new computer application called Smart Music that plays other band instruments for students while they practice at home and gives them feedback on their performance.
“Band was interesting [virtually] because of the lag, we couldn’t play with our microphones on or else it would be really off,” freshman Wheeler Wood said. “Once we got back in school, this got better because we can play together, and Mr. Jordan can hear what I sound like when I play.”
As the new technical theatre director, Garcia is also adjusting to an adapted school year due to COVID-19. For Garcia, connecting with the students in her class has been easier than expected.
“ESD has been the most welcoming campus I have ever taught at,” Garcia said. “I thought it would be really difficult to connect with everyone, especially the students, because there are so many limitations connecting virtually, rather than in person. However, the students here are open and willing to form those relationships no matter the circumstances, which made the virtual process so much easier.”
Changes to the technical theatre workshop this year include the extra sanitation of tools and making use of the space that the workshop provides. For the theater program, the replacement of the annual musical production with a play is one of its biggest adjustments. There will be three plays instead of two, and each production will be video recorded so that they can be watched from home.
“It will be extremely weird not to perform for an audience,” Garcia said. “Just like the energy that students bring to a campus, an audience brings energy to a show…It won’t be much different for the crew. We will still be creating our pieces and performing our tasks, just like normal. The actors are going to face the biggest adjustments.”
Moseley joined the athletic department as the new Director of Sports Performance. To safely prepare students for adapted sports seasons while in virtual school, Moseley met and trained several athletes online at the beginning of the season, and additionally introduced a new app to help students train at home. With sport competitions beginning on Oct. 12 after a phased return, Moseley can now work with students in person to prepare them for the season.
“Athletics have certainly looked different this summer and [while] starting the school year,” Moseley said. “As a strength coach, the summer is usually when I get to spend a lot of time coaching student-athletes so trying to find that connection virtually posed some challenges. Fortunately, we were able to launch the Teambuildr app in early July which allowed us to deliver quality training programs to the athletes remotely.”
Along with virtual teaching, many new faculty members had to complete their interview process virtually. Jordan was one teacher who completed his interview online and attended several meetings through Skype before he was hired.
“The parts that I missed, again similar to online learning, were the more social and collegian components of the interview process, things like eating lunch together or even walking around the campus, that are much harder to replicate online,” Jordan said. “Everyone at ESD was so understanding about the circumstances and made the experience smooth and enjoyable throughout, and I am so happy to be a part of the ESD community.”