Omaha Public Schools taps coaches to ease transition to hybrid learning

By: Kenrya Rankin

Verizon Innovative Learning educators used their expertise to support entire district during pandemic

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Verizon Innovative Learning coaches Jenni Sherrill and Sara Newman and principal Dr. Carrie Carr say the resources and professional development provided by the program helped them support their school district during the pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic challenged school districts like Omaha Public Schools to reimagine education. The Nebraska district had to prepare its 53,000+ students to learn remotely for the 2020-2021 school year, and not much time to make it happen. But it had valuable resources to tap into: Verizon Innovative Learning coaches and educators.

R.M. Marrs Magnet Center coach Jenni Sherrill and Norris Middle School coach Sara Newman were eager to help. As part of the Verizon Innovative Learning program, their schools were well prepared for the pivot to remote learning with 1:1 devices, home internet access and professional development designed to help them integrate technology into their pedagogy. The program is a key part of Citizen Verizon, the company’s responsible business plan for economic, environmental and social advancement.

Sherrill and Newman shared their knowledge with the district’s 80+ schools that were not part of the program, advising a committee on everything from device rollout to creating systems for tech support to integrating learning apps into the pedagogy. The result was a comprehensive toolkit with training materials and tutorials to help them transition to remote and, eventually, hybrid learning.

“We had two years of experience under our belt before the pandemic hit and so I was able to build off of that professional development instead of starting from scratch,” says Newman. “It was really important to share what we had learned over these past two years to help the district be successful.”

Norris Middle School principal Dr. Carrie Carr also presented to new principals about digital leadership. “A lot of questions that leaders first had were, ‘How do I get devices out to everybody? How do we get all the appropriate paperwork signed? How do we manage this day to day?’ They wanted to know all of those things,” says Carr. “And so being fortunate enough to have been a Verizon Innovative Learning school for several years helped us to know those logistical things.”

Sherrill is proud of her district for rallying during the pandemic and is excited about the ways teaching has advanced. “My biggest hope for our school community is that we can take the things that we've learned over the past year-and-a-half and keep the things that work for our kids,” Sherrill says.

Watch and learn how these educators shared the knowledge and resources they’ve gained via the program to develop district-wide strategies that position students to win.

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