Rob Ohly, Aspengrove School’s diploma program coordinator and Grade 11 chemistry teacher, says he is excited for the start of the school year. Ohly is scene here with a chemical model of alcohol. (Karl Yu/Nanaimo News Bulletin)

Vancouver Island teacher says in-class learning engages and motivates students

Nanaimo chemistry teacher talks about back-to-school in COVID-19 times

As students across B.C. prepare to go back to school under COVID-19-influenced regulations, a teacher in Lantzville says learning in the classroom will do them good.

Rob Ohly, Aspengrove School’s diploma program coordinator and Grade 11 and 12 chemistry teacher, says lessons were learned after in-school teaching was halted in March and restarted in June. Students were happy to be back at the bricks-and-mortar location, he said, and he feels positive about the B.C. Ministry of Education’s restart plan, mandating 60 students for elementary class learning groups and 120 for secondary.

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”We’re really happy that the ministry did these learning groups because keeping students physically distant from each other was really hard in June because they didn’t have the learning cohorts and the occupancy limits…” said Ohly. “So that’s a difference which is going to make it a lot easier. I would say the biggest thing is kids liked being in school, so we’re super happy they are back. There’s no doubt kids learn better in school.”

Remote learning was necessary after the suspension of in-class instruction, but it isn’t conducive to motivating students, Ohly said.

“Moving online was very easy in many ways for the tech-savvy kids, but we did notice the longer that went on, that the harder and harder it was for them to remain engaged…” said Ohly. “So when we got them to come back in June, that’s something that we did notice that they were so happy to be back. They came back with lots of energy and excitement.”

Masks will be available to students, on request, and there will be hand sanitizer stations throughout the school, but there will be other changes, as well. Events featuring the entire school will be affected.

“We do have a number of whole school events … we’re not doing those this year and that’s something we are conscious of: how we’re going to maintain that special community feel that Aspengrove has…” Ohly said. “Apart from the cleaning and all that, [maintaining] that great sense of community will be probably one of the challenges.”

While getting ready for the school year usually consists of meetings and class prep time, Ohly said COVID-19 has affected 2020-21 planning “pretty massively.”

“Mainly in terms of organizing the grades into the learning groups and then how that has affected some of the scheduling and then a lot of the logistical things that we have to figure out,” he said. “Staggered arrival times, staggered departure times … staggered recess, staggered lunches.”

Aspengrove School opened its doors to students for the 2020-21 school year on Wednesday, Sept. 9. Public schools open this morning.

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