GATES COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) — Most classrooms are relatively quiet but at Central Middle School in Gates County, North Carolina, band teacher Leigh Morgan is always listening for the perfect note, even when the sound is coming from her computer.
“She’s very good at listening for the small things, so that made it a whole lot easier,” said band student J’yanah Powell.
Even when when the tune is coming from her computer.
When the pandemic hit the region in spring 2020, Morgan’s class of future musicians went completely virtual. Since then, some have come back — others are still learning through video chat.
“I’ll be honest, it really kind of terrified me at first, because I’m like, ‘How am I going to do this?’ Band is an ensemble class. We play together as a group,” said Morgan.
She says even though they couldn’t all play at once because of the internet lag, it still worked out.
“We’d go round and round where they could see each other, and they could hear each other, and they would help each other out. It was great because if someone was struggling, one kid would type in the box, they’d be like ‘You’re doing awesome. Don’t give up,’” explained Morgan.
“What she did, it was great. We were seeing each other, everybody had their cameras on, we could hear each other it was nice,” said band student Benjamin Ross.
Things were going so well, Morgan was encouraged to put together a virtual Christmas concert around the holidays. She asked each student to record a Christmas song, and she put it together using iMovie.
“I really wanted to do something special for the kids,” said Morgan.
About 30 miles away in another class in Perquimans County, ninth-grade English teacher Tina Mathis had also been operating through a hybrid of at-home and in-class students.
She uses Google Meets to allow her remote students to participate.
For her, she says the key is communication — not only with students but also their parents. Mathis made herself available at all hours, through many different platforms. Whatever it took.
“There were many nights I was answering emails up until 10 or 11 o’clock at night because I give them the opportunity to text me as well, said Mathis.
Her students say she wouldn’t take failure as an option.
“Say we’d made a bad grade on a quiz or something, she would reach out [and ask] did we need help with it,” said ninth-grader Shieheim Overton.
“She finds every little way to kind of get to us,” said student Zoe Clifton.
Mathis has been a teacher for a quarter of a century. She says using all of the new technology has been a challenge, but at the core, she stuck to the basics: teacher and student relationships.
“The relationship we have with our students and our parents and those that are involved in the education of our children, it plays a big part in how they want to perceive themselves and be successful,” said Mathis.
Whether its analyzing a book or learning to play the trumpet online, these teachers adapted and students were set up for the future.