VIRGINIA BEACH, Va (WAVY) – 10 On Your Side is continuing our Excellent Educators series with another highlight on a teacher in Virginia Beach.

Amanda Marcum has been a teacher at W.T. Cooke Elementary for 14 years.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in spring 2020, teaching 6-years-olds in first grade became more difficult.

But she stepped up and refused to let students fall behind, even if they were behind a screen.

Marcum said it’s her passion to sit down with a student and see that lightbulb go off.

“They learn so much in first grade as far as learning to read and just developing their social and emotional skills,” she said.

Virtual learning was a big challenge.

“First grade is big upon learning to read, so as far as reaching them, how to read and having to do that through Zoom and making different sounds, it’s hard to hear them a lot of times on Zoom with internet issues. So, whether they are making the correct sounds or not was difficult,” she recalled.

But she made it her mission to still implement the curriculum, including social-emotional learning.

“Every day, we started off with a morning meeting. And morning meeting is just a time for us to have fun together create that positive classroom culture and to really build a climate of trust,” she explained.

Also: the “five Cs.”

“The ‘five Cs’ here in Virginia Beach are critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration and citizenship,” she said.

“[It means] just being able to interact with them, having them interact as far as math goes, still producing that critical thinking and have them do math simpler where they had to explain their mathematical thinking and being able to share it still with their peers and still learn from their peers,” she explained.

Though difficult at first, her determination to help students succeed helped get her a new position as an instructional coach for more students.

“In the classroom, I was very structured, very consistent, so my management was pretty precise in different ways. And so I’ve used that as I go into other classrooms and being able to reach the kids, but [also] being able to build those relationships with them,” she said.

Marcum now works with teachers to help them design specific instruction for students, so she always gets to see the lightbulb go off.