05/05/2020|Inside Verizon

Giving our teachers extra credit.

By: Chris Serico
Manager - Employee Communications

On National Teacher Appreciation Day, we celebrate those who transform distance learning.

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Class is in session! We’re celebrating National Teacher Appreciation Day with a Verizon Innovative Learning coach whose insights have helped tens of thousands of Texas students and their teachers in the age of distance learning.

When the coronavirus pandemic forced the Austin Independent School District’s 5,500 teachers to educate more than 80,000 students via distance learning, administrators turned to Sharon Laidlaw — the lead Verizon Innovative Learning coach — to share her insights with district faculty.

“Because of the work that I had done with Verizon, I had built relationships across the technology department, with our IT department, and with the folks who were trying in this new situation to sort of build the road as we were running down it,” Sharon said.

Making an impact

The Verizon Innovative Learning program — which has committed $400 million to educational initiatives in under-resourced schools — helped Sharon answer the school district’s time-sensitive, distance-learning questions, ranging from the logistics of distributing devices to students to supporting teacher curriculum.

“Our work with Verizon Innovative Learning has really impacted what we’re doing now,” Sharon added.

Kiara Dailey, a reading and ELA teacher at Paredes Middle School, incorporated Sharon’s technology insights before distance learning became the norm. “It was a smoother transition than I anticipated,” Kiara recalled.

As a physical-education teacher tasked with distance learning, Melissa Almanza faced a unique set of challenges, but thankfully she, too, could draw from Sharon’s tech perspective. Melissa has since incorporated apps, health lessons, virtual field trips and virtual workouts into her curriculum. “I’ve learned, over the last month or two, a lot isn’t always better: Pick and choose what’s going to suit you and your department and your core.”

Finding ‘grace’ for yourself and others

Beyond any syllabus, these teachers now have new lessons to share.

“I’m always going to make mistakes, and I’m always going to be learning, and that’s OK,” Melissa said. “And it’s OK to ask questions. That’s how we learn.”

Sharon offered a reminder to maintain priorities: “The most important thing is not the technology, and it’s not the learning; it’s the human connection.”

And Kiara suggested taking a moment to acknowledge the difficulties we’re all facing. “This is hard for everybody, in completely and drastically different ways,” she said. “The same grace that you want others to give you, give to yourself and give to each other.”

Now it’s your turn

V Teamers, we want you and your kids to help us continue celebrating our finest educators during Teacher Appreciation Week and beyond. Email us at good@verizon.com with a photo or 15-second video, telling us why you and/or your kids appreciate your favorite teacher. It’s just one more way we can give great teachers a little extra credit.

We may feature your tribute on a Verizon platform later this week!

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About the author:

Chris is a member of the Verizon Public Relations team and a contributor to Up To Speed. When he's not singing a cappella or quoting vintage episodes of "The Simpsons," please give him all your burgers.

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