St. Thomas More Cathedral School (STM) moved swiftly and seamlessly to fully instruct students online in PreK to 8th grade amidst the Coronavirus crisis. With a 1:1 mobile device ratio already in place, students departed school on Friday, March 13 (a previously scheduled early dismissal) with their books, in addition to their iPad, Chromebook or HP touchscreen laptop prepared to learn virtually for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, teachers spent the remainder of that fateful half day in professional development to fortify their Google Classrooms and Seesaw accounts with activities. The foresight of having faculty and students experienced in online educational techniques since its inception has proven fruitful in the first weeks learning at home, particularly since Governor Northam closed Virginia schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 year.
STM students are now learning online with all of their teachers in a modified 4 hour daily classroom schedule that meets and exceeds the Diocese of Arlington requirements for instruction. Students participate live via Google Meet amongst other interactive applications, while the parents support each other in a private Facebook parent group dedicated to the school community. IT support tickets and even a Virtual Spirit Week have been successfully managed online in this ‘new normal.’ The teachers at STM have long embraced technology for integration into all subject areas.
“Our school has a traditional environment in that we use textbooks daily, still teach cursive and grammar,” shared Principal Cathy Davis of St. Thomas More Cathedral School. “However, we have a progressive philosophy amongst our peers with regards to best practices for instruction, including differentiation and adapting to new ways of doing things.” Davis added, “my staff is sought out by other schools to train their teachers in how to do this, but it will take them a while to ramp up and catch up to where we sit.” She continued, “our students gain exposure to technology little by little from PreK onward, as developmentally appropriate and when purposeful in lessons. We know that embedding technology into classrooms engages more learners and often reaches them when a text cannot. It also prepares students for high school and beyond.”
Modalities in use for online learning include, but are not limited to: Google Classroom; SeeSaw; Edgenuity; Class Dojo; Kahoot!, EveryDay Mathematics; Reading A-Z; Epic; World Book e-checkout; Spelling CIty; Kahoot; Zaner Bloser Handwriting; Khan Academy; Scratch & Scratch Jr.; Loyola-Press; and, CodeSpark.
Earlier this school year, STM opened a dedicated Design Lab space filled with STEM learning equipment and further opportunities to apply skills in robotics, 3-D printing, green screen technology and more, courtesy of PTO fundraising and events.
About St. Thomas More Cathedral School:
St. Thomas More Cathedral School serves students in PreKindergarten through 8th grade in the Diocese of Arlington, just outside our nation’s capital of Washington, D.C. Our Mission is to nurture and develop the spiritual, academic, social and emotional promise of each child in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church, rooted in Gospel values and led by the examples of the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ. St. Thomas More is recognized as a high-performing U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School since 2006.