The School Zone: News


Suza Sharp, a 15-year veteran teacher at Stratford High School is finding herself incorporating more online tools to help her seniors stay current with their dual-credit English 4 class during the suspension of normal school operations in Spring Branch ISD.

The 80 Stratford students who have been working towards dual high school and college credit for Sharp’s class with Houston Community College have switched their coursework to Canvas, an online learning platform and a new tool for hosting classes and remote learning.

When asked to find a word to describe the first week of transition to Canvas Sharp chose “Overwhelming.” 

“Setting up my classes and assignments, resources, etc., in an unfamiliar platform, and coaxing 80 kids to get on that new platform through Remind messages has very difficult virtually.” 

One of her students, senior Van Heitmann, expressed his appreciation for his teacher’s assistance:

“Ms Sharp has been great with communication and addressing concerns and questions from the class,” he said. “She has been very supportive of our new learning platform.”

Sharp also continues to use the eLlearning platform, itslearning, for managing students’ lessons and assignments. 

“I have used itslearning for three years to post all my resources, use discussion threads, uploading essays on Turnitin, announcements, having kids post daily current event articles through the discussion thread feature, and the plan feature,” she said. 

“The kids are very familiar with it, and that is comforting now to them.”

Sharp used the “test” feature of itslearning last week for the first time. Two of her students needed to make up multiple choice quizzes missed prior to the break.

“I plan to use that feature more going forward,” she said.  “There are a lot of great options with it.”

Other communication technologies that her students are in the habit of receiving from Ms. Sharp are Zoom (online meeting app) and Remind (group text notifications). 

Early on, she also sent email messages to parents and students via the Skyward (student management system) Messaging Center.

“Success now has a lot to do with communicating both ways (student-teacher), managing one’s time efficiently (even though it may seem like kids have a lot of extra time, they may be surprised), and being responsible,” said Sharp.

In total, there are six different technologies she is using to stay connected with and help her students progress with learning while at home.

“I teach seniors, so this is an option that they’ll have more of when they register for [college] classes next year, so now they’ll get a taste of it,” she said.

At home during the extended time away from school, Sharp is practicing self-care by reading (no surprise for an English teacher), exercising and baking bread. 

“I think the key is to remember that we are all in this together as a family, really,” she said. “If a student needs help, I hope he or she will reach out to a teacher or classmate. We all need to support one another.”

Hopefully, soon, she will be able to get back to her favorite parts of being a teacher: 

“I think I learn as much from them as they hopefully learn from me, and I laugh every day with them”

Thank you, Ms. Sharp, for using technology to stay connected with your students so they know you are available and are a familiar presence in uncertain times.

Submitted by Becky Wuerth, SBISD Communications 

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