Teaching through the Pandemic, with Optimism and Realism
December 24, 2020
When the COIVD-19 pandemic hit, Ashbrook teachers were prepared to continue helping their students discover the story of America. One of these teachers was Kimberly Grosenbacher, a graduate of Ashbrook’s master’s degree program and a government teacher in Boerne, Texas. Kimberly reminded the seniors in her Advanced Placement US Government classes, “we are now actors in a transformative event in world history.”
Equipped with the vast resources available at TeachingAmericanHistory.org and with a firm understanding of America’s founding principles, Kimberly “entered the virtual classroom with a degree of excitement at a new challenge—and a resolve to remain flexible.” She had already used online systems like Google Classroom with her students prior to the pandemic, but leading class via web conference was new to her. She had participated in online classes through her Ashbrook coursework and admits that she “naively thought this would be easy… I remembered how engaging my Ashbrook professors were and how my classmates came to the live online classroom ready to participate.”
Kimberly eagerly scheduled online lessons and gave her students writing assignments, hoping to continue engaging her students in the same active discussions they had been having in person. After the first week, however, she realized that her students seemed less engaged than usual. “Although my students did turn in their weekly assignments, I missed the daily conversations with my students.”
So, informed by her Ashbrook education, Kimberly found a learning opportunity in our present moment and began to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on civil liberties with her students. She shared numerous podcasts, resources, and other opportunities with her students to enhance their learning, including Ashbrook’s “Insights from History” webinar on civil liberties with Dr. Joseph Fornieri. She participated in the webinar along with several of her students.
After the webinar, her students were eager to continue the conversation, so she scheduled an online session the next day to debrief. Without telling her students, she invited Dr. Fornieri, with whom she had studied in Ashbrook’s graduate program, to join their session. He happily agreed. “My students were excited and surprised to have Dr. Fornieri join our conversation. They were well prepared with questions,” Kimberly said. “After the session ended and the professor signed off, we discussed the topic for another hour. All agreed that the day’s experience had been the highlight of their distance learning!”