DMS Science Teacher Uses Fun Game, Interactive Assignments to Keep Students Engaged

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted how education is delivered. Beginning in March, all Stanislaus County school districts – including Denair Unified — were forced to suspend on-campus classes and move to a distance learning model. Today, in the latest in a series of profiles, we talk with a Denair teacher about distance learning, some of the challenges involved and the lessons that can be learned.

  • Teacher: James Zepeda
  • School: Denair Middle School
  • Grade/Subject: 7th– and 8th-grade science
  • Years in the district: 1

What does a typical school day look like for you now? How do you organize your time?  

I wake up at 5 a.m. and begin checking emails from students or parents who may have concerns regarding my class. Depending on the emails, if any, I reply with the best of my knowledge and information. Depending on my lesson plan for the day, I begin looking over the Google Slide, Homework, check-in question or Kahoot to ensure the information is easily accessible. By 7:45 a.m., I arrive at school ready to begin my day and meet all the students in my classes. From 8 a.m. to noon, I will hold a class for students Monday through Friday. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I review with students the topic(s) we are discussing that incorporate Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and post a “check-in question.” On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have homework assignments(s) about the discussion on the previous days and will go over the homework with them. On Fridays, in class, we play Kahoot. In Kahoot, the questions are based on the week’s lecture materials, homework assignments and previously covered materials.I utilize Kahoot as a tool to help create a fun environment to help refresh and reiterate lessons and major essential NGSS concepts. 

As noon comes around, I have my lunch and start working on other assignments/materials related to my work. From 12:30 to 2:45 p.m., I hold online office hours for the students to ask questions, work on assignments and get guided/scaffolded instruction on any homework assignments. After 2:45 p.m., I head home and respond to emails or questions concerning my class from students or parents until approximately 8 p.m. 

Continue reading “DMS Science Teacher Uses Fun Game, Interactive Assignments to Keep Students Engaged” »

Denair Thrilled with Donation of Steinway Grand Piano

Karen Lewis adored her Steinway Model 0 grand piano, so much so that she refers to it like one would a cherished member of the family. “She’s like a living human person,” described Lewis. “She was born in 1907 and came to me in the 1960s.”

Now, after more than 50 years in Lewis’ family, the musical heirloom has found a new home in the Denair Unified School District.

Lewis and her husband recently downsized from their 2,500-square-foot home to a 1,500-square-foot cottage, where there is no room for the piano, which is almost 6 feet across at its widest point. Neither of their adult children – a son in San Francisco and a daughter in Ann Arbor, Mich. – had a place for the piano. For all its emotional attachment, it was time to find it a new owner.

“To me, the piano is priceless, so I didn’t want to sell her,” Lewis explained. “I wanted to send her somewhere where she could continue to fulfill her purpose. … When I got to thinking about it — when it became very real that we were moving — I landed on this idea.”

Continue reading “Denair Thrilled with Donation of Steinway Grand Piano” »

Time Management, Tech Skills and ‘Air Hugs’ All Part of Jones’ New Routine in Teaching DECA Second-Graders

Teacher: Susy Jones

School: DECA

Grade/subject: 2nd Grade

Years in district: 14

What does a typical school day look like for you now? How do you organize your time?  

A typical school day is very different than before. Now, it’s about the computer. The first thing I do is check my district email messages and Class Dojo messages from parents. Then, I log in to Google Classroom and check off completed student assignments. Turning on my document camera and logging into Zoom comes next to ensure they are all working and ready for our class Zoom meeting. After that, the remainder of the day consists of answering parent questions and concerns, making phone calls home to students who didn’t attend our Zoom meeting and meeting with families on Zoom during my office hours where I assist in completing assignments posted online. Time management is more important than ever. I make sure I am available during school hours for families to contact me at any time; that is a priority. I organize my time based on the needs of my students; it’s different every day. 

What are some of the things you are doing during live instruction with students?  

Continue reading “Time Management, Tech Skills and ‘Air Hugs’ All Part of Jones’ New Routine in Teaching DECA Second-Graders” »

Denair School Leaders Discuss Waiver Process, Other Scenarios Under Which Students Return to Campus

Even as students, staff and administrators deservedly were praised by Denair Unified School District trustees Thursday night for the ways they have adapted to distance learning and delivered lessons online during the COVID-19 pandemic, the question on everyone’s mind was, “When will education be normal again and students return to class?”

The simple answer is no one knows. As school board President Crystal Sousa acknowledged after a long discussion about various options: “I know parents want kids back in school. I know everyone wants kids back in school. But it’s a logistical nightmare.”

Six months after face-to-face classes were suspended by the pandemic, Superintendent Terry Metzger said the district still has no clarity about when students can return to campus. That’s because Stanislaus County remains at the highest level (purple) on the state’s COVID color-coded watch list, and the health and safety of students and staff remains the No. 1 priority.

Through Thursday, according to the county’s public health website, there have been 15,749 COVID cases in the county and, sadly, 303 deaths. In the unincorporated part of the county that includes Denair, there have been 696 coronavirus cases.

Continue reading “Denair School Leaders Discuss Waiver Process, Other Scenarios Under Which Students Return to Campus” »

DECA’s Amezcua Blends Technology with Personal Touch to Meet Challenges of Kindergarten Immersion Students

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted how education is delivered. Beginning in March, all Stanislaus County school districts – including Denair Unified — were forced to suspend on-campus classes and move to a distance learning model. Today, in the first of a series of profiles, we talk with a Denair teacher about distance learning, some of the challenges involved and the lessons that can be learned.

Teacher: Vanessa Amezcua (Señorita Amezcua)

School: Denair Elementary Charter Academy

Grade/subject: Kindergarten Spanish Dual Immersion

Years in district: 3

What does a typical school day look like for you now? How do you organize your time? 

A typical school day begins with me double-checking that I did not miss any parent messages from the night before or if I have any new ones to respond to. I use my time prior to our 8:45 a.m. Zoom call to pre-record myself doing lessons for the students. From 8:45-9:30, I am on Zoom with my 21 students. The rest of my day is spent creating schedules, video lessons, prepping materials and answering any questions from parents.

Continue reading “DECA’s Amezcua Blends Technology with Personal Touch to Meet Challenges of Kindergarten Immersion Students” »