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Front Page » Education » Teachers adapt to unprecedented world

Teachers adapt to unprecedented world

Written by on November 11, 2020
  • www.miamitodayepaper.com
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Teachers adapt to unprecedented world

When Covid-19 hit Miami-Dade in mid-March, county-wide school closures soon followed. Teachers, students and parents, thrust into an unprecedented circumstance, had to adapt swiftly to an educational new normal in which traditional in-person interactions were put on hold in favor of remote learning.

Few responded as quickly and deftly as Marjorie Lopez, coordinator of the Miami-Dade Public Library System’s Homework Help Tutoring Program, said Children’s Trust Chief Public Policy and Engagement Officer Donovan Lee-Sin, who nominated Ms. Lopez for the category of “Educators in a Covid Crisis: Educators who found better ways to serve students despite the handicap that the pandemic created.”

Prior to the pandemic, the program Ms. Lopez oversees helped about 1,000 students weekly at 27 library locations, managing more than 100 certified teachers who served as tutors to students from kindergarten to high school seniors, Mr. Lee-Sin wrote in a letter of nomination.

Once the pandemic struck, Ms. Lopez hastened to bring the program online over the spring break weekend. In mere days, she researched and tested online delivery platforms and developed a plan to launch the new program while getting feedback from stakeholders. From there, he said, she ran an “aggressive” professional development campaign to train the 100-plus tutors for programs available in three languages.

“The current online tutoring program has been operational for [more than] 27 weeks and provides over an average 800 students per week with one-on-one virtual tutoring sessions with certified teachers in reading and math,” Mr. Lee-Sin wrote. “Through her passion, initiative, creativity and determination, Marjorie and her team demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the community and inspire others toward excellence in education.”

Early on, many parents panicked, Ms. Lopez told Miami Today. Most weren’t educators and were at a loss as to how to help their kids continue learning from home. Thankfully, she and the tutors with whom she works – “among the best educators in Miami-Dade,” she said – were able to turn the program around.

“Parents tell me they’ve been a beacon of hope during the dark days of Covid-19,” she said. “A lot of children look forward to seeing the educators every Saturday. When you hear kids are looking forward to tutoring, you feel great about being part of this program, and I feel great about making it happen with all of those who helped. It wouldn’t have been possible without the teachers.”

A top educator whose forward thinking helped the county school system respond to the rapid changes the pandemic prompted is Cristian Carranza, administrative director of the Miami-Dade Public Schools Division of Academics.

Mr. Carranza was nominated by Mercedes Balcells-Camps, principal research scientist at the MIT Institute of Medical Engineering and Science and program director of the Global Co-Creation Lab in Miami.

MIT’s Global Teaching Lab, which enables MIT students to become teacher assistants and inspire science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) vocations, began a collaboration in January with the county school district. Under that umbrella and thanks to Mr. Carranza’s leadership, she said, the collaboration expanded to include an affiliate agreement that birthed multiple programs.

One was a STEAM expo on a Miami Dade College campus attended by some 30,000 people, including students, teachers and family members from hundreds of public and charter schools across the county.

They also worked together to connect public schools and MIT students in developing remote education tools. The result was a series of webinars created by MIT students and translated by high schoolers into Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian and Creole.

That work, she wrote in a laudatory letter of recommendation, was “almost like a premonition” just months ahead of the pandemic. Accordingly, the materials it produced are now available to the entire public school community. 

Ms. Balcells-Camps further credits Mr. Carranza with helping to broaden the base of students studying STEAM careers, an effort that among other things helps to reduce the gap in gender equity and minority access to careers in those fields.

Evidence of his success on that front, she said, has since reached MIT’s inbox.

“Thanks to Mr. Carranza’s work, several students – girls and underserved minorities – in Miami-Dade public schools have already applied for undergraduate studies at MIT, which they never considered before,” she said. “I feel really fortunate to call Cristian my collaborator, a source of inspiration and a facilitator able to sort obstacles no matter how big, and I am looking forward to what how work together will bring in the near future.”

Mr. Carranza said he is grateful for the nomination and the recognition it brings but was short in sentiment, saying simply, “My personal goal as the STEAM administrative director for [the county’s public schools] is to do my part to prepare, engage and inspire the next generation of inventors, explorers, innovators and artists to lead our beautiful Miami-Dade.”

An organization that has done “tremendous work advancing education and needs in foster care during the pandemic” is Miami-based nonprofit Educate Tomorrow, led by CEO Brett McNaught, said Kara Locke, the head of the SEED School Miami and a past “Best of Miami” honoree.

Founded in 2003, Educate Tomorrow this year served 750 disadvantaged youths and their families through a multitude of education-based services, including helping foster children in going to college free among charge.

Its partners include Miami-Dade Public Schools, Miami Dade College, Florida International University, the local foster care system, many local foster care nonprofits and the Children’s Trust, the organization’s largest funder.

“A lot of the youth and families we serve experience unstable housing or food insecurities, need employment or to develop life and employment skills,” Mr. McNaught said. “Whether it’s kindergarten, a college student or a family, everybody has an individualized goal plan, and we work with them on that to really look at not just their education and academics but their wellbeing, financial status and housing situation.”

The pandemic has only magnified those needs, he said. In turn, Educate Tomorrow stepped up by providing more than $350,000 in Covid-19 relief to help enrollees with rent, car payments, utility bills, food and tutoring in addition to educational assistance.

“It’s just really anything and everything we can do to connect them to resources, including community resources like shelters or government assistance programs,” he said. “We try to be experts in understanding what resources are available in the community and partnering with organizations and governments that can help our families so that they can come to us and we can help refer them to what’s available.”

Before Covid-19, Educate Tomorrow developed a smartphone app through which youths can access their individualized goal plans. After, the app helped the organization to better reach its participants remotely.

‘A lot of youth we serve are not connected to very strong networks of support, and this pandemic really raised anxiety levels, depression and stress to a great degree, particularly for those who we help that are already struggling,” he said. “They’re seeing the value in our programming. It’s focused on all aspects of their lives.”

When Covid-19 hit Miami-Dade in mid-March, county-wide school closures soon followed. Teachers, students and parents, thrust into an unprecedented circumstance, had to adapt swiftly to an educational new normal in which traditional in-person interactions were put on hold in favor of remote learning.

Few responded as quickly and deftly as Marjorie Lopez, coordinator of the Miami-Dade Public Library System’s Homework Help Tutoring Program, said Children’s Trust Chief Public Policy and Engagement Officer Donovan Lee-Sin, who nominated Ms. Lopez for the category of “Educators in a Covid Crisis: Educators who found better ways to serve students despite the handicap that the pandemic created.”

Prior to the pandemic, the program Ms. Lopez oversees helped about 1,000 students weekly at 27 library locations, managing more than 100 certified teachers who served as tutors to students from kindergarten to high school seniors, Mr. Lee-Sin wrote in a letter of nomination.

Once the pandemic struck, Ms. Lopez hastened to bring the program online over the spring break weekend. In mere days, she researched and tested online delivery platforms and developed a plan to launch the new program while getting feedback from stakeholders. From there, he said, she ran an “aggressive” professional development campaign to train the 100-plus tutors for programs available in three languages.

“The current online tutoring program has been operational for [more than] 27 weeks and provides over an average 800 students per week with one-on-one virtual tutoring sessions with certified teachers in reading and math,” Mr. Lee-Sin wrote. “Through her passion, initiative, creativity and determination, Marjorie and her team demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the community and inspire others toward excellence in education.”

Early on, many parents panicked, Ms. Lopez told Miami Today. Most weren’t educators and were at a loss as to how to help their kids continue learning from home. Thankfully, she and the tutors with whom she works – “among the best educators in Miami-Dade,” she said – were able to turn the program around.

“Parents tell me they’ve been a beacon of hope during the dark days of Covid-19,” she said. “A lot of children look forward to seeing the educators every Saturday. When you hear kids are looking forward to tutoring, you feel great about being part of this program, and I feel great about making it happen with all of those who helped. It wouldn’t have been possible without the teachers.”

A top educator whose forward thinking helped the county school system respond to the rapid changes the pandemic prompted is Cristian Carranza, administrative director of the Miami-Dade Public Schools Division of Academics.

Mr. Carranza was nominated by Mercedes Balcells-Camps, principal research scientist at the MIT Institute of Medical Engineering and Science and program director of the Global Co-Creation Lab in Miami.

MIT’s Global Teaching Lab, which enables MIT students to become teacher assistants and inspire science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) vocations, began a collaboration in January with the county school district. Under that umbrella and thanks to Mr. Carranza’s leadership, she said, the collaboration expanded to include an affiliate agreement that birthed multiple programs.

One was a STEAM expo on a Miami Dade College campus attended by some 30,000 people, including students, teachers and family members from hundreds of public and charter schools across the county.

They also worked together to connect public schools and MIT students in developing remote education tools. The result was a series of webinars created by MIT students and translated by high schoolers into Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian and Creole.

That work, she wrote in a laudatory letter of recommendation, was “almost like a premonition” just months ahead of the pandemic. Accordingly, the materials it produced are now available to the entire public school community. 

Ms. Balcells-Camps further credits Mr. Carranza with helping to broaden the base of students studying STEAM careers, an effort that among other things helps to reduce the gap in gender equity and minority access to careers in those fields.

Evidence of his success on that front, she said, has since reached MIT’s inbox.

“Thanks to Mr. Carranza’s work, several students – girls and underserved minorities – in Miami-Dade public schools have already applied for undergraduate studies at MIT, which they never considered before,” she said. “I feel really fortunate to call Cristian my collaborator, a source of inspiration and a facilitator able to sort obstacles no matter how big, and I am looking forward to what how work together will bring in the near future.”

Mr. Carranza said he is grateful for the nomination and the recognition it brings but was short in sentiment, saying simply, “My personal goal as the STEAM administrative director for [the county’s public schools] is to do my part to prepare, engage and inspire the next generation of inventors, explorers, innovators and artists to lead our beautiful Miami-Dade.”

An organization that has done “tremendous work advancing education and needs in foster care during the pandemic” is Miami-based nonprofit Educate Tomorrow, led by CEO Brett McNaught, said Kara Locke, the head of the SEED School Miami and a past “Best of Miami” honoree.

Founded in 2003, Educate Tomorrow this year served 750 disadvantaged youths and their families through a multitude of education-based services, including helping foster children in going to college free among charge.

Its partners include Miami-Dade Public Schools, Miami Dade College, Florida International University, the local foster care system, many local foster care nonprofits and the Children’s Trust, the organization’s largest funder.

“A lot of the youth and families we serve experience unstable housing or food insecurities, need employment or to develop life and employment skills,” Mr. McNaught said. “Whether it’s kindergarten, a college student or a family, everybody has an individualized goal plan, and we work with them on that to really look at not just their education and academics but their wellbeing, financial status and housing situation.”

The pandemic has only magnified those needs, he said. In turn, Educate Tomorrow stepped up by providing more than $350,000 in Covid-19 relief to help enrollees with rent, car payments, utility bills, food and tutoring in addition to educational assistance.

“It’s just really anything and everything we can do to connect them to resources, including community resources like shelters or government assistance programs,” he said. “We try to be experts in understanding what resources are available in the community and partnering with organizations and governments that can help our families so that they can come to us and we can help refer them to what’s available.”

Before Covid-19, Educate Tomorrow developed a smartphone app through which youths can access their individualized goal plans. After, the app helped the organization to better reach its participants remotely.

‘A lot of youth we serve are not connected to very strong networks of support, and this pandemic really raised anxiety levels, depression and stress to a great degree, particularly for those who we help that are already struggling,” he said. “They’re seeing the value in our programming. It’s focused on all aspects of their lives.”

2 Responses to Teachers adapt to unprecedented world

  1. Barbara Taveras Reply

    November 12, 2020 at 8:28 pm

    Congratulations to both Marjorie and Christian it’s so ironic that I happen to work with both of them as a Educator. They are both great and have been phenomenal through this whole pandemic and serving the students.

  2. Jeanie Herron Reply

    November 16, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    I would like to congratulate everyone listed in this article, but especially Marjorie Lopez, who is my Supervisor with the Miami-Dade Public Library System’s Homework Help Tutoring Program. She is a good listener and offers suggestions that are “out of the box” and always useful. Thank you Marjorie!

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