Julie Holt, a choir teacher at Eisenhower High School, said teaching from home means making sure students can see more than just her face. “Posture and body movement are really important to singing,” she said.

Julie Holt, a choir teacher at Eisenhower High School, said teaching from home means making sure students can see more than just her face. “Posture and body movement are really important to singing,” she said.

Photo provided by Amber Joseph, Hudson Collective Marketing


Teachers get clever to create home classrooms

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Metro | Published January 11, 2021

 Bemis Junior High School teacher Karen Forsyth created a makeshift document camera out of toilet paper rolls  and a tablet while teaching from home.

Bemis Junior High School teacher Karen Forsyth created a makeshift document camera out of toilet paper rolls and a tablet while teaching from home.

Photo provided by Amber Joseph, Hudson Collective Marketing

METRO DETROIT — Karen Forsyth, a teacher at Bemis Junior High School in Sterling Heights, has her fingers crossed that there won’t be any more toilet paper shortages for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her house, the rolls serve double duty: hygiene products and also a makeshift document camera.

“I created (it) using toilet paper rolls to hold (a tablet) up,” Forsyth explained. “My husband built a computer stand for me so that I don’t have to sit all day. We got a TV from the basement to use as a second screen. It’s all about adjusting to the situation.”

It’s no secret that students have had a tough task this past year, moving their daily learning schedule online, at least in part, while school districts try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Kids have had to forgo socializing, hands-on learning, face-to-face instruction and so many the other benefits to in-person learning. But on the other side of those screens are teachers who have had arguably an even tougher task, recreating a classroom experience within the confines of their web cam.

Nearly all Michigan public school teachers have participated in some type of distance learning format during the COVID-19 crisis, according to the Education Police Innovation Collaborative, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Education.

According to EPIC’s research, just 12% of the 823 districts that responded to their survey planned to do fully virtual instruction during the 2020-21 school year. Eighty-five percent of districts planned on some type of hybrid format and, of those, 59% indicated they would offer families an option between modes of instruction.

For many educators, like Forsyth, creativity has been key in building a teaching “command center,” not just technologically but physically.

Sarah Chisholm teaches first grade at Plumbrook Elementary School in Sterling Heights.

Well, under normal circumstances that’s where she would teach. She’s had to carve out space at home during the pandemic, and with students that young, her space requires a little wiggle room. Literally.

“My house is tiny, so I created a learning area using the space between my staircase and our furnace,” Chisholm said. “It’s just big enough that we can still do dance and movement breaks. I put a small table, tablecloth, lava lamp and other fun decor (there), and I brought in learning manipulatives from the classroom so that instruction mirrored face-to-face teaching methods. It’s small, but it’s worked out well. And the kids love to see when the dogs pop in for a visit.”