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ALC Teachers setting high standards for students

Lindsey Coomer and Gayla Fernandez February 9, 2021

 

Teachers Lindsey Coomer and Gayla Fernandez aced the relationships part of connecting with students at the Aledo Learning Center years ago, which is an important aspect of the success of students in an alternative education environment.

 

About two years ago, they made a commitment to making a shift and changing the way they deliver instruction in the classroom, and it has paid off for ALC students.

 

They’ve been so successful, in fact, that Coomer and Fernandez presented on “Increasing Rigor, Relevance and Relationships in Alternative Education” during the statewide virtual annual conference for the Texas Association for Alternative Education last week.

 

“There’s a key between behavior and academics but sometimes with alternative schools we forget about the academics a little because we are so focused on the behavior,” said Coomer, who teaches English at the ALC and was the AISD Secondary Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020. “Different doesn’t mean less than. We can be a different type of school, but it doesn’t mean that we’re less than. We should be building [students] for their futures.”

 

Coomer and Fernandez’s aha moment came when they started using the Canvas Learning Management System in 2019. They realized they could have more individualized lessons for students on all levels who are in one classroom together. When the COVID-10 pandemic hit in March of 2020, Coomer and Fernandez were ahead of the game in being prepared for online learning.

 

“[Students] feel like they have more of a relationship with the teacher because the teacher is the one doing the video,” said Fernandez, who was a districtwide quarterly Circle of Greatness Winner during 2019-2020. “If you can give personalized videos, they feel like it’s you sitting there. Because you have so many classes in one room – I could have five different science classes in one room – I have to have the ability to work with those kids without having to sit right next to them the whole class period.”

 

These two teachers have seen their students go from watching curriculum lessons on video and taking multiple choice quizzes to watching individualized lessons, using discussion boards, making choices in their learning experience, asking for teacher feedback and, ultimately, being more engaged in a higher level of learning.

 

“We felt like they were really understanding the subject better. … we found it gave them more engagement, it gave them more relevance, and they learned more,” Fernandez said.

 

Coomer and Fernandez hope that attendees took from their session at the TAAE conference that there are other ways to provide exceptional educational experiences for students at alternative education campuses. And that you absolutely can hold any student to a high standard.

 

“Those two ladies took [Canvas] and ran with it and made it relevant for our kids,” ALC Principal Cheryl Jones said. “It was a way for them to provide more rigorous learning at higher levels. They take ownership of that. They can differentiate it and change it for whoever needs what. For those two, they’ve really embraced Canvas and truly making learning individualized.

 

“I am proud of them and the success that they’ve had the last couple of years,” Jones said.