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FMS Receives National Attention for E-learning Framework

The hallways aren’t packed with students heading to their next class, but learning is well underway at Falcon Middle School. Firebird Nation kicked off school year 2020-21 with a refined E-learning framework Aug. 17.

Bethany Champlin, eighth grade English teacher, meets with her students virtually Aug. 18.

One key element to this year’s E-learning approach: All Falcon Middle School teachers built their own landing page and designed a virtual classroom with a similar look and feel that can be accessed from the school’s E-learning tab on their homepage. The landing page includes assignments for the week and links to join every class via Zoom meetings all in one spot.

The purposeful, revised E-learning approach caught the attention of Modern Teacher, a national organization that promotes modernizing learning to unify virtual and in-person instruction. The organization is sharing the E-learning framework of FMS with other schools around the country to serve as an example.

“The laser-like focus of the administration team, as well as the intentional efforts by teachers, have propelled them to the top of the field,” commented Lisette Casey, strategy officer with Modern Teacher. “Everyone at Modern Teacher, both on staff and within the network across this country, is proud of, and looks toward the steps the Falcon Zone has taken to make modern learning a reality for students.”

Jennifer McDonald, theater arts teacher, instructs from her classroom Aug. 18.

FMS ended the 2019-20 year like many schools in a remote learning environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Last spring was reactionary,” stated Brian Smith, executive principal of Firebird Nation Campus. “For this school year, we had time to be thoughtful, and I am really proud of our teachers who have worked really hard preparing for this.”

“Day 1 was about teaching the process to students. I personally have a student at Bennett Ranch Elementary, Falcon Middle and Falcon High. We are working toward all teachers [in the Falcon Zone] doing things the same way, which is really helpful,” said Jennifer McDonald, theater arts teacher at FMS. Educators like McDonald explained to students that for every class, the landing page is their primary place to go for remote learning.

Teachers in Firebird Nation are required to instruct onsite from their classroom every Tuesday and Thursday. “This type of learning is better as students can click on their Zoom link and ask questions to get help. It has saved a lot of emails already,” shared McDonald. On the first day, one of McDonald’s students was able to call in to her classroom to get help, something that wasn’t viable last spring when teachers taught from home.

Braden Smart, band and choir teacher, leads music instruction from his classroom.

Firebird students are learning remotely in a synchronous model, which equates to a learner participating in classes with the same bell schedule online as if they were in person at school. “Students are just as curious as we are,” said Braden Smart, choir and band teacher. “On the first day I gave them a vision of what the next few weeks will look like, and I tried to give them a glimpse of hope.”

Some parents like Stephanie Caceres are feeling more at ease this time around with E-learning. “All communication has been clear and easy to navigate, which has greatly reduced our fears. We are so grateful for their care and preparedness.”

Amy Matisek
amatisek@d49.org