KIPP Indy Unite Elementary’s 5th grade English Language Arts teacher, Lateasa Cannon, shares her experience with eLearning, what she is proud of in regard to her team’s response, and how this experience has prepared her for a new leadership role. Questions and answers were edited for space and clarity.

Questions appear in bold, while Lateasa’s answers follow.

How are you working to ensure students continue to learn while schools are physically closed?

My expectations for students have not changed. I am continuing to teach rigorous content because that is the education my students deserve. It is important to me that our teachers continue to expose their students to as much as possible. I want to make sure I did everything I could to prepare my students for success in middle school.

Did you experience any challenges with eLearning?

The biggest initial challenge was students’ access to technology. KIPP Indy did an amazing job getting students technology and I am so grateful for it.

It has also been challenging because we are not seeing students in person daily. We really miss our students; plus, this is their last year in the elementary school. It is not how we wanted to end the year, but my team is planning a virtual graduation this week and we have also discussed having a celebration when things are safe again. We really want to celebrate them and all of their hard work this year.

What has been the biggest takeaway of making the switch to online classes?

My biggest takeaway has been that our students rise to challenges. Navigating Google classroom and getting on several different sites to complete work hasn’t been the easiest task, but they have worked so hard to make sure they are completing their work. They are asking questions and I believe they feel more empowered because they truly are in charge of their own education. It has been really amazing to witness.

What do you miss most about school being physically open?

I miss walking around my classroom and helping students work through misconceptions. I miss the prideful look on a student’s face when they have worked through a difficult task. I miss engaging in class discussions and witnessing students’ resilience and genius each day. This time has given me a whole new appreciation for the work I do and the students I have the pleasure of teaching.

What are you most proud of in your team or school’s response to COVID-19?

During the craziness of COVID-19, I have been most proud of my team for their hard work, generosity, and determination during this time. The 5th grade team has worked tirelessly to make sure that we are putting together not only rigorous but meaningful lessons for our students. We have had great conversations around race, privilege, implicit bias, etc. The students have really been thinking critically on these issues and it shows through their work. The 5th grade team has also been committed to making sure we are getting all of our students logged in and working on the assignments. We are constantly sending texts and emails, calling, or leaving voicemails for our families. We know that we want to do everything we can to provide an excellent education for our students. I’m also so proud of KIPP Indy for ensuring that our students have access to technology. When it was announced that the school would be providing computers and hotspots for students, I felt so much joy.

How has this time prepared you for your new leadership role as a Grade Level Chair?

This time has prepared me for my leadership position by challenging me to speak up and be more confident in my leadership abilities. I have been fortunate enough to facilitate zoom conversations with staff, think critically about curriculum and changes we need to make to address the needs of our students, and also read some great articles on leadership and development.