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by Dr. Aiko Malynda Maurer, Director of Innovation, Incubation, and Development/CEO of CPDLF

On March 13, 2020, thousands of educators across the state of PA were suddenly thrust into a new normal of education - remote learning. While virtual learning is not a new concept and there are many educators and students who are and have been learning in the cyber world, the entire climate of education has been shifted. For some, they shifted quickly and adapted to this new normal of educating. For others, they are just hoping this all ends soon as every day is a struggle. For all, this new normal is hard, no doubt about it. If you are struggling or uncomfortable with everything that is going on, it's okay. Your feelings are normal and understandable. Keep trying and hang in there. You got this! If you are thriving despite all the changes and enjoying the opportunity to try something new, you are amazing! You got this!

  • For tips and tricks on teaching in a virtual environment, check out the blogs on the World of Learning Institute webpage. Phenomenal teachers teach foreign languages through virtual methods every day. If they can do this, you can do this!

  • If you are struggling in this new temporary normal of education, check out the resources for your emotional well-being on the Connects U! Website. You are not alone, you can do this!

  • Looking for resources to use for remote learning or need to learn about the tools to use with remote learning, check out

  • For some more encouragement for teachers, check out this video produced by Bored Teachers.

Regardless of your feelings and your situation, thank you for staying connected and doing your best to keep the learning going - virtually. You got this!

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The Importance of Teacher Presence

by Dr. Aiko Malynda Maurer, Director of Innovation, Incubation, and Development/CEO of CPDLF at Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8

Years of research and personal experiences have taught us that teachers who facilitate learning are essential in the learning process.

young teacher

Humans are social beings. While being social may look different among cultures, communities, or personalities, we all learn and grow when we are connected and interact with one another. In physical, virtual, or blended classrooms, it is the teacher that has the ability to beautifully orchestrate harmonious interactions that create a sense of belonging for each student while facilitating meaningful and worthwhile learning experiences. Remember these very important points:

  • A digital device does not orchestrate anything, it is a tool to assist with learning.

  • Content does not create a valuable learning experience, it is the foundation of knowledge necessary for learning.

  • A digital platform that contains content does not create a sense of belonging, the platform provides a way to organize and manage content to create a pathway for learning.

An effective teacher connects all the various tools, resources, and knowledge to create an authentic learning experience that engages the student emotionally, socially, and cognitively. This orchestration of interactions should look different between the physical classroom, the virtual classroom, and the classroom that blends the physical with the virtual. Whether you have been a teacher in a physical classroom who has suddenly found yourself as a teacher in a virtual world or you have been a teacher in a virtual world, check out these resources for tips to help you orchestrate beautiful harmonious interactions that let your students know you are present.

Whether in a physical, virtual, or blended classroom, let us never underestimate the power of the TEACHER!

To all the awesome teachers who are doing the best they can to create connections and build positive relationships that engage students in their learning so they can be empowered to be the best they can be - THANK YOU! We APPRECIATE you! We NEED you!

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By Dr. Megan Horsh, Education Consultant | Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8

Almost every night, before giving my kids permission to leave our dinner table, I ask them to answer a question. What are three new things you learned today? What was your favorite part of the day? If you could change anything about today, what would it be?

Since our schools closed due to COVID-19, over a month ago, the focus of my questions has narrowed around a central topic, gratitude.

  • Name three things you used today that you are grateful to have?

  • Who is someone you are grateful to have in your life?

  • What is the thing you did today that you are most grateful for?

Activities and practices revolving around gratitude have been shown to have positive effects on psychological health and can be supportive of individuals dealing with adversity. In fact, gratitude activities can be used as coping strategies when facing difficult or stressful situations. Similar to how I use these activities around my kitchen table, educators can use these activities in their classrooms to help their students cope with difficult situations and assist in shifting mindsets.

The vast assortment of gratitude activities, coupled with their positive effects, make them an ideal tool for promoting social-emotional learning in the classroom during COVID-19 closures.


Simple or Complex

Gratefulness activities can be simple or complex. Students can simply take a picture of something they are grateful for, or write a letter to someone expressing their gratitude. Gratitude activities can be a response to a global prompt or one from your own imagination.

  • Tell me something YELLOW you are grateful for.

  • Take a picture of something OLDER THAN YOU that you are grateful for.

  • Write a letter to SOMEONE IN YOUR SCHOOL or SOMEONE IN YOUR FAMILY whom you are grateful for.

Using these specific prompts may help a student attend to something they might not have originally considered. It also might help a student focus when he or she is overwhelmed by a more global prompt.

Individual or Group

Finally, gratefulness activities can be worked on individually or as a group. You can set a group goal, for your class to identify 40 things that they are grateful for. Shifting this activity to a group project can take the pressure off of individual students who might struggle with this activity and may also promote a sense of community and connectedness as everyone works towards a common goal.

As schools continue to be closed during this pandemic, gratitude activities are a way to continue social-emotional learning in your classroom, while providing coping strategies for your students.

How can you incorporate gratitude activities into your classroom next week? Here is a link to a practice guide from to help you find or develop a gratitude activity that fits in your classroom with your students.

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