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Kelly Damare - Lessons Learned

Editor’s Note: It's been almost a year since Cardinal Gibbons transitioned to distance and hybrid learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. In that time the obstacles have been formidable. But in true Gibbons spirit, our school community faced the challenge head-on and through ingenuity, perseverance, and courage has re-imagined the way teaching and learning takes place during these unprecedented times. We asked educators about their experience since last March. Each day for the next several days we will share one educator’s experience with you in this new series, Lessons Learned. Today, we continue the series with Spanish Educator Kelly Damare, above.

Q: Looking back, how have you grown as an educator? 

​A: Wow - this is a tough question as I feel like I have grown a lot...even if at times it was kicking and screaming.  I think I am a more flexible and compassionate educator. I don't think any of us could have been prepared for the last year but I'm proud of the fact that I was able to adjust and keep what is important - my love of interacting with my students and sharing my passion for languages -even if I had to figure out how to do that differently.

Q: What new teaching strategies do you use now that you didn't know or use last spring? 

A: I had to look to technology to simulate some of the speaking activities we would typically do in class and would occur authentically in an in-person setting. This year I partnered students for an "exchange experience" - the students are given a topic, sample questions, and vocabulary. The students use Zoom to record their conversations and I assess them from their recorded videos. It has been fun to watch the conversations become more and more natural and to see the relationships between the students grow as they get to know each other better. Many of my lessons are developed with my technology resources in mind... I give quizzes using Kahoot (whereas before it was used as a review game), the students use screencastify or flipgrid to create presentations. I love BOOM CARDS for an interactive way to practice new concepts using digital task cards.... it has been my go-to replacement activity for my "walk the room" activity.

Q: What are you most proud of that you have accomplished, learned, or adapted to? 

​A: I am most proud that first of all.... we seem to be making it and my students are learning and enjoying my class. While it took longer than normal I have developed solid relationships with my students and they know that I care for them, love them, and want to be their advocate. That they are learning and enjoying Spanish is a bonus.

I'm also super proud that as a team of educators we have learned to share, adapt, and collaborate. It feels like every one is willing to jump in and share an idea or help a colleague in need.  It truly feels like we are all in this together!

Q: What skills and/or strategies will you continue to use when we are not in hybrid/distance learning that will improve teaching and learning in your courses?

A: I'm looking forward to being back to "normal" but there are strategies or activities that I will keep. I think through this process we have had to look at assessments differently as educators.... the best assessments have students use their knowledge (through projects, conversations, presentations, etc.) versus just spitting back memorized facts (or answers found in google). I will keep these types of assessments as part of my curriculum.  Some of the technology tools I have found are cool - the students like them, think they are fun, and challenge them to demonstrate what they know. I want to get back to a classroom that is lively with engagement, relationships, and conversations but I will continue to use the good things we've picked up over the last year.

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