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Employee Spotlight: Elephants and Mice Help One Quest Educator Teach Independence

This year has presented new challenges, and remote learning was no exception. Students are learning in a way that they aren’t used to, and they’re also learning how to learn in a way they aren’t used to.
Luckily, Camille Fogel, first-grade teacher at Quest Charter Academy, has some tricks up her sleeve. Because she teaches young students remotely, she sees firsthand the challenges of creating a virtual space that is easy for first graders to navigate on their own.

During her live group lessons and on assignments, she uses visual reminders and prompts to keep her students informed on what they should be doing. Everything is always in one place in a slideshow, so they always know where to go for their work.

Some of their work requires a timer to ensure they finish a task in a specific amount of time, which automatically starts when they are in present mode. Because of this, she taught her students to switch back and forth between “big mode” (i.e., present) and “little mode” (i.e., edit) on their screens. She prompts these two actions with a kid-friendly picture in the top right corner of the slides of an elephant or a mouse. ​​​​​​​
 
This is just one simple step she teaches her students to help them be independent learners, something they have to be now more than ever. She understands that not all parents can sit with their children to navigate through remote learning, so she takes steps to make sure it is accessible for all.

“I am very open with my students’ families and let them know that I acknowledge these added challenges, and my goal for my students is to be able to complete their work independently, with as little technical support from parents as possible,” said Ms. Fogel. “I prioritize the use of visuals and hyperlinks, along with plenty of videos and audio cues and prompts to provide as many tools as possible to help the student succeed on their own as much as possible.”​​​​​​​
 
Though virtual teaching has a learning curve, like creating a class that feels like a family while students aren’t physically in the same place, she still enjoys the flexibility and creativity that goes along with it.

“Students can still learn, play games, connect with others, and even explore content in ways they have not previously been able to, and as long as educators have an open mind, the possibilities truly are endless!” said Ms. Fogel. “We are not just teaching students how to read, write, add, subtract, etc., we are teaching them how to use these advanced tools to explore the world we live in, seek answers and information, while empowering them to develop an open-minded perspective about the immeasurable potential technology has on our society.”
Ms. Fogel came to Quest as a first-year teacher and has been a first-grade teacher the last three years. This year she has had to teach her students more about how a computer works, and she acknowledges that this generation of learners will have a special understanding of technology because of virtual learning.

Though her class would practice logging on to a computer and using different websites to learn back when she was in-person, virtual learning for first graders requires a lot more navigation. She believes that a big difference this year is the internalized value of working independently and doing their best, especially when it comes to teaching integrity.
“Letting students know that making a mistake is a crucial part of learning is the most important thing when teaching students how to be independent and work with integrity,” said Ms. Fogel.

Her class discusses what it means to be independent, and they highlight the feeling they get when they are able to do something without help. She believes it is a feeling of success and autonomy that makes them feel like they have more control over their own learning. But to be sure her students know exactly when they should be doing something completely on their own, she uses a visual reminder. This way, students and parents can identify the assignments that are meant to assess understanding. ​​​​​​​
 
“Since March, Ms. Fogel has been so innovative in her approaches to student learning,” said Kelly Osterhout, principal at Quest. “She has been a great support to all of our staff and has become one of our go-to support people. Ms. Fogel’s lessons are well planned and engaging for our scholars! We are truly fortunate to have her as part of our virtual teaching team.”
Keep up the excellent work, Ms. Fogel!