Many students are getting into the routine of distance learning, back at their computer screens to start the 2020-21 school year. That’s the way they closed out last year, beginning in March, but Escalon Unified School District administrators note that improvements were made over the course of the summer that translate into a better teaching environment for staff and a better learning environment for students.
Still, there are challenges that must be met and one of those areas is in physical education, which is required but is difficult to plan for in the virtual setting.
“We are still doing PE at both the high school and junior high (El Portal Middle School),” explained Athletic Department chair Kristie Cathcart, who works with Brandon Hoover at the high school.
Jenna Hobby, Greg Largent and Joe Dalpogetti are at El Portal to lead classes there.
“For the 10-12 PE and conditioning class they meet live (via computer) three days a week and are currently completing a fitness challenge of sit-ups, push-ups, and lunges during those meetings,” Cathcart said. “On their own, the students are required to exercise 20 minutes on school days and fill out an exercise log. I teach all freshmen classes, so health, which is a graduation requirement, is incorporated into our curriculum. During our live sessions, one day we cover health topics, one day the classes do a fitness video or exercises together, and the last day we work on sport skills/concepts.”
Cathcart’s classes are also required to exercise two days a week for at least 20 minutes.
“Both Brandon and I use Google classroom and Zoom and are slowly trying to incorporate more useful learning technology into our lessons,” noted Cathcart.
For Dalpogetti, who is new to the staff at El Portal this year, he wasn’t expecting to start his teaching career here in Escalon with no students on campus.
“We develop the assignments as a team and deliver the same instruction and assignments as a whole,” Dalpogetti said of himself, Largent and Hobby. “We meet with our students in Zoom classes every period, with a modified block schedule for distance learning. We review the workout, how to properly perform the exercises, which muscles are targeted, what the focus of the workout is and how many calories are being burned.”
Students are then expected to perform the workout during the class time and complete an ‘exit ticket,’ said Dalpogetti, which is “essentially a reflection of the workout.”
A longtime girls basketball coach at Escalon, Dalpogetti made the move here from the San Joaquin County Office of Education.
“For me as a new teacher, I’m very excited to come ‘hone’ to teach at El Portal,” Dalpogetti said. “I’ve been teaching for SJCOE for the last year several years but living and coaching in Escalon, so I’m happy to be able to work in my community.”
Cathcart said there has been some trial and error at all levels, but she is hopeful that the instruction is helping students as they learn from home.
“We meet via Zoom like all the other classes. On Wednesdays we do live exercises over Zoom. It’s pretty neat to watch them all doing the exercises,” said Cathcart. “I try to give them feedback while they’re doing it, but I can only do so much behind a screen. We will start Frisbee, where they will learn different throws and also going to attempt golf. A lot of students don’t have the correct equipment so we will be getting creative.”