Yoder

Eldwood Yoder, a teacher at Eastern Mennonite School, has had to transition his lessons to online-only as the private institution follows the same guidelines as public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his 38 years of teaching, Elwood Yoder has seen a lot of changes in technology, curriculum and student needs. 

However, in all of that time, he's seen nothing like what's been happening the past few weeks with the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down public schools across Virginia. 

Although Yoder does not teach at public school — he teaches history and Bible class at Eastern Mennonite School — the school is following the guidelines set recently and has moved to online learning. 

According to the school's website, it launched a distance learning program on March 18 with a goal of building community.

In a video that first day, Justin King, high school principal, and Maria Archer, K-8 principal, assured students that they are most concerned about students' well-being and wanted to make home-based learning as stress-free as possible.

On Monday, Paul Leaman, head of school, launched an online mini-chapel series, just a few hours before Gov. Ralph Northam called for the closing of Virginia schools for the rest of the academic year.

Along with online learning, EMS has launched virtual visitations for prospective families.

Yoder and his fellow teachers at EMS were given a few days to prepare for the transition to online learning, but it was something Yoder had already been thinking about. 

Having taught in a traditional classroom setting for almost four decades, Yoder knew he was going to need to get creative to address student learning needs in this time of crisis. 

He has been recording YouTube videos for each of his classes and posting them every other day to keep up with the demand. 

The school has been assisting families that might not have access to computers or internet service, Yoder said. 

"I have a little bit of experience," he said of recording his lessons. He taught an online class nine years ago. "But I'm figuring out what they need at their homes to continue to be involved."

Yoder said he's learning what works and what doesn't. 

"I've tried to maintain the same assignments, activities, and methods as before, without too much change or new technologies," Yoder said after a week of online-only teaching. "I make YouTube videos for my classes. After a week I've produced nine teaching videos that my different classes watch. But my main tool is PowerSchool learning management system, and the Google apps available for teachers."

One of Yoder's students, Emily Hess, a ninth-grader at EMS from Rockingham County, said she has enjoyed online classes, barring technical difficulties.

"Personally, I enjoy online classes because I can work at my own pace and I'm not stuck in a classroom for long periods of time," Emily said. "I am able to get up, stretch, move around, take a break, and use the bathroom without asking."

Emily said the situation has also provided a break from strict school schedules, and as a result she's been getting more sleep, which allows her to better focus than she did at school.

"Our teachers have been good with not overloading us with school work so I am able to get it all done and still have time to do other stuff at home," Emily said.

Emily said she has previously taken an online course for geometry, and found the only downside is not being able to recall the material as easily compared to similar courses she's taken in the classroom.

"I have a feeling this will happen with these online classes," she said. "The other downside to online classes is that we can't see friends as often as we usually do."

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or mwilliams@dnronline.com. Follow Megan on Twitter @DNR_Learn

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