Editor’s note: This is part of a series featuring the six finalists for the Guam Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year Award.
Joyce Berry is an English and literature teacher at John F. Kennedy High School, and she has students at five schools in the Guam Department of Education. This is because she teaches with the online regional program, which was launched this school year.
Her hard work in the program earned her a finalist for the Guam Department of Education’s 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year Award.
“It was the first time I was nominated and to make it to the semi-finals was shocking, to make it even more of a finalist was even more shocking, … But I’m really blessed and I’m very happy to have already accomplished so much in such a short amount of teaching time, because people would consider it a short amount of time.
Berry has been teaching middle and high school for eight years. This school year, she is teaching Grade 11.
Transitioning from in-person instruction to the online regional program was a challenge, at first, for Berry, but surprisingly there has been more engagement with her students.
“I actually talk to students more than in person, which is strange because right now I’m available anytime. Students will chat with me, they will email me; we’ll be chatting over Zoom, and so I feel more connected rather than more apart in this situation, and a lot of my students, I’ve asked them what they think of this program and they share the same feelings with me,” Berry mentioned. .
She has noticed that her online students are more comfortable engaging in class activities.
“In this model, the students are courageous. When we’re behind a screen, we tend to be a lot braver than we are in person, we tend to say things, and we tend to feel comfortable where we are. This is a good reason why many of my students strive. (It’s) because they are not afraid to talk to me and they use, for example, the direct message function during my lessons and I think that also shows a great improvement, rather than being in the classroom,” Berry said. .
While being behind the screen has its limits, assessing a student’s social and emotional growth and connecting with their students is not one of them.
“Emotionally, I see how they write to me when they do their reflections and the way they talked to me and the way they talk to each other because there are still conversations going on in the classroom. We play a lot of games in my class that engage them, I see how they interact with each other and I see the happiness and the reactions and they tell me exactly how they feel,” Berry said.
She also noted an increased involvement of her students’ parents online.
“It’s actually funny because at my last two parent-teacher conferences, I’ve had a lot more parents than me in person because the means of communicating with them is a little easier,” he said. she declared. The need to drive to school, register, and physically wait for parents to meet their students’ teachers was no longer a barrier for parents.
In the pandemic-era teaching environment, being able to adapt and adjust quickly is what matters most, Berry said.
“If I win, it would be more important for my students, more than anything, to show that this type of learning is viable and that we can all succeed in online learning and hopefully we can keep it going. option, because it works,” she said.