VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Our Excellent Educators series highlights teachers who creatively navigated the challenging pandemic year. 

At Plaza Middle School in Virginia Beach, science teacher Kimberly Moorefield and English teacher Jenna Lazarides teamed up to address the social isolation they noticed at the beginning of the school year. 

Plaza Middle School teachers Kim Moorefield and Jennifer Lazarides were nominated as Excellent Educators by Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

“We noticed at the beginning of the year, they weren’t talking much,” Moorefield said. “Communication and collaboration is very important for that social and emotional health.” 

She and Lazarides found a project that would bring students together to hear each other, and let the world hear them: NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge

“With English class, we’re constantly writing essays,” Lazarides said. “A podcast really is just an essay, so it was wonderful to see how they transferred that learning into a real-world, authentic opportunity.” 

Students had to combine their English unit on dystopian literature with their science studies on environmental concerns. 

From there, Lazarides and Moorefield let the student groups come up with their own topics.  

The final products addressed the Green New Deal, urban sprawl, transportation pollution and environmental problems presented by the pandemic.  

“Our students are very globally aware, so they are constantly thinking about the world around them,” Lazarides said. “They’re trying to decide, ‘What world do I want to live in?’” 

NPR will announce the winners of its Student Podcast Challenge today. If Plaza Middle School gets the honors, look for an update on