Teacher Chad Jobe, sixth from left, and students Cameron Schindler, left, River Neilson, Aiyana Fraser, Ella Roberts, Annabelle Johnnie, Mike Tran, Tobias Gillman and Zach Spoor-Hendrickson show art pieces they’ve created. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Teacher Chad Jobe, sixth from left, and students Cameron Schindler, left, River Neilson, Aiyana Fraser, Ella Roberts, Annabelle Johnnie, Mike Tran, Tobias Gillman and Zach Spoor-Hendrickson show art pieces they’ve created. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Vancouver Island teachers say COVID-19 an ‘extraordinary’ learning experience

Pandemic has interrupted and altered the way education is operating

It’s been one year since B.C.’s declaration of a COVID-19 state of emergency and Vancouver Island school teachers have learned from their pandemic experiences.

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools students were on spring break when the B.C. government temporarily suspended in-class instruction due to COVID-19 in March 2020. A majority of teachers and students were ordered to stay away from bricks-and-mortar schools until class resumed in June, and restrictions have carried over to the 2020-21 school year.

Rather than the usual two-semester system, schools in Nanaimo are using the quarterly system in 2020-21 and students take two classes at a time over 10 weeks before moving to the next quarter.

Jean Kloppenburg, Nanaimo District Secondary School art and photography instructor, told Black Press Media the quarterly system is a “big silver lining” for shop and arts teachers. Students seem to have a stronger focus when taking only two subjects, she said.

“There’s no falling through the cracks when you’re there for three hours; you can’t be a ghost in the classroom,” said Kloppenburg. “If you’re there for 60 and 80 minutes, you can slip through if you have a class of 25 and 30 … I find that just having that lower number of students to interact with, and have relationships with and check in on their learning, I get way more out of it.”

Kloppenburg said it is a more intense learning experience for all and she knows who’s not showing up for class and who needs extra help.

The pandemic saw an increase in sign-ups for the district Island Connect Ed distributed (distance) learning program, which runs 12 months a year. Justin Mark, Island Connect Ed principal, said in general, enrolment has “increased three-fold,” something that was hard to keep up with.

“I feel like we’ve gotten to the point where we’re appropriately staffed … I remember at the beginning with our elementary groups, we had three teachers from last year and we’d have 150 waiting to get new teachers,” said Mark. “So we’d have [teachers on-call] and we’d be passing out books and packages because we wanted to commit to parents right away to give them resources for them to work at home.

“Now we’re to a place where there’s one teacher and there’s a manageable number, 30 students, and they have that connection. They have a teacher.”

Mark said things settled down around Christmas, allowing staff to focus on student success. Staff identified students who needed support and came up with ways to assist.

“We’re getting to the point now where we’re really focused on individual student success for every family and at the beginning we were just trying to get stuff out. That’s how our lens has changed as our staffing’s changed,” he said.

Chad Jobe, teacher with Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ learning alternatives program, says the program has always been “relationship-focused” and there has been an emphasis on activity-based learning this year, with an increase in art and collaborative art pieces, for example.

The program’s teachers have had to change the nature of learning as they’ve seen an increase in certain types of package work, with “true outreach,” according to Jobe – teachers will go to homes, drop off work, talk with students over the phone, or online, and go back and retrieve the work.

Jobe said another impact of the pandemic has been more worry for students and their family members, some of whom are immunocompromised. He said the learning alternatives program is blessed with abundant space and has been vigilant about hand-washing, mask-wearing and sanitizing.

“I think there have been increases in anxiety for sure,” said Jobe. “We’ve seen anxiety increase amongst parents as well, where they’re worried about their kids coming in.”

Mark said the pandemic is something people can learn from.

“It’s been a roller-coaster, but we always talk about (how) this will be a year we look back on and say, ‘Do you remember when?’” he said. “It’s been an extraordinary year, but I think our staff has really realized the opportunity and the time we’re in and the importance of education at this time.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

RELATED: Stress leave, tears and insomnia: Island teachers feel the strain of COVID-19

RELATED: Why it’s ‘urgent’ B.C. teachers get vaccinated from COVID-19 before summer


Like us on Facebook and follow Karl on Twitter and Instagram


Just Posted

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
PHOTOS: Vehicle driven into Saanich Walmart removed after two trapped workers rescued

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Jim Hogan is Ladysmith’s famed ‘Moon Boot Man’. (Submitted photo)
Ladysmith’s ‘Moon Boot Man’ over the moon with community support

Jim Hogan has been jogging Ladysmith’s streets with his signature Kangoo-Jump boots since 2002

Imogene Lim, a Vancouver Island University anthropology professor, has received a Province of B.C. Medal of Good Citizenship. (Black Press file)
VIU anthropology professor receives B.C. Good Citizenship medal

Imogene Lim’s work includes advocacy for establishing Chinese heritage sites

Berwick by the Sea resident Hilda Shilliday, 91, is ready to participate in the Grandmothers to Grandmothers’ Stride to turn the Tide fundraising event that runs April 11-25. Register on the event website for a fee of $20 which goes to support the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s work in Africa, then do any kind of exercise, log the time, distance or whatever and be eligible for a prize package. Photo contributed
91-year-old Vancouver Islander ready to Stride to Turn the Tide

Campbell River’s Hilda Shilliday encourages everyone to support African grandmothers

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Most Read