Katy Martin is a former Riverbend Elementary teacher filling in till the end of the school year while teaching remotely from Virginia. (Courtesy photo | Katy Martin)

Katy Martin is a former Riverbend Elementary teacher filling in till the end of the school year while teaching remotely from Virginia. (Courtesy photo | Katy Martin)

Teaching (very) remotely: Former Juneau teacher lends a hand from Virginia

Unsettled times lead to a unique opportunity for teacher.

Disease prevention measures have pushed many into working remotely. But some are working a little further from home than others.

Katy Martin, formerly a teacher at Riverbend Elementary, stepped in for the rest of the school year to teach a fifth-grade class. And she’ll do it from Virginia.

“I’ll teach these kids the last eight weeks and help them finish their elementary school career,” Martin said in a phone interview. “It looked like something I could totally do, and I wanted to give these kids everything I could from here.”

Martin, formerly Goodell, was a first-grade teacher at Riverbend for four years before moving to Northern Virginia with her husband last year. When she heard from a friend of a teacher who had to take emergency leave, she got in touch with the school about filling in for the rest of the year.

“When we were looking for a long-term sub and having a hard time finding one because of the time of year. Her name came up,” said Riverbend Principal Elizabeth Pisel-Davis in a phone interview. “Katy’s a rock star. She’s a skilled teacher. It helps that she knows the majority of the staff and the other teachers. It was very easy having her join back into the community.”

MIchael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire                                 Riverbend Elementary School is closed to students until at least May 1.

MIchael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire Riverbend Elementary School is closed to students until at least May 1.

Finding a long-term substitute at this time of year is difficult due to lack of available subs, Pisel-Davis said.

“I stepped in because it was the right thing to do,” Martin said. “There’s a handful of these kids, just under half, that I taught in first grade. How cool is it in a week we were able to put this all together?”

[Planet Alaska: We’re in this together]

After the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the Lower 48 and the rapid transition to remote learning, Martin opted to fill in remotely from Virginia, rather than possibly bringing the contagion to Alaska. The most difficult part of preparing was quickly getting ready to teach a fifth-grade curriculum, as well as connecting with students and families from four time zones away with the resources at her disposal.

“These kids are capable of so much, which is helpful since I’m all the way over in Virginia,” Martin said. “The time difference is weird.”

Martin is teaching a broad curriculum, including math, reading, writing, science, social studies and modern news.

“The news is really important. I don’t want to bog them down but I want them to understand what they’re seeing,” Martin said. “We want everyone to feel successful during this time, but we also want everyone to feel safe. Every teacher in the nation and across the world is going through the same thing right now.”

While Martin is glad she’s able to help, she said there isn’t any replacement for in-class teaching, especially for those grades. Martin says she’ll be seeking work teaching in Northern Virginia for the next school year.

“I personally feel it’s better to be in a classroom with the kids. The face-to-face interaction, being able to stand in front of a classroom and actually teach, is definitely important,” Martin said. “There’s nothing that could ever replace old-school type of teaching.”

Pisel-Davis thanked parents for bearing with the schools as they take the changes in stride.

“I’d like to extend a giant thank you to the families of Juneau for their patience and partnership as we figure out how to do distance learning,” Pisel-Davis said. “The teachers are all working very hard and being very creative. The parents have been great partners for us. It’s astounding to see how the community has come together.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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