Teachers in rural Alabama adapt to virtual learning

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A student in an Austin ISD classroom (KXAN Photo)

ALICEVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused challenges many places, especially in the classroom, where many children are forced to learn remotely while others don’t even have the resources to do so. 

In rural Alabama, schools are facing the challenges of students not having the resources at home like computers, internet connection, or a stable home life to promote learning and discipline. 

Kaley Powell, a kindergarten teacher at Aliceville Elementary School, has been going the extra mile to be creative and flexible in order for her students to thrive. 

“I would say probably the most important factor for us so far has just been communication. I teach in a title one school in rural Alabama so a lot of our children are coming from low income families and they don’t have a ton of resources for virtual learning,” Powell said.  

Powell explained the importance for children, especially at the kindergarten level, to be hands on and interactive when learning. Regardless of the household resources, there’s also the widespread concern of the lack of peer interaction. 

“I’ve always been at the kindergarten grade level where everything is very hands on and just developmentally appropriate practices of having kids that are in the classroom, some for the very first time. With the obstacle of a pandemic, it has been really interesting,” she said. 

As teachers work with what they have, schools like Aliceville Elementary have recognize the low-income families that many of their students come from and have taken the extra step to provide hands-on learning material. 

“One thing our grade level did when we first started the school year, we had a Chromebook pickup for all the students in our district and we made Ziplock bags full of manipulatives for the kids. So every kindergartener at our school got a 20 set of blocks, shape flashcards, letter flashcards, number flashcards. This was just something extra to keep that they might not already have at home or might not be able to afford” Powell said. 

A Chromebook is one digital resource that requires internet access in order to participate in the learning activities. In these rural communities, internet access is not always a given.

“Another thing that we have said as teachers is just to be flexible. Some parents have a variety of reasons why they can’t make the online learning work so we will do work pickup packets on Mondays or Fridays,” Powell explained.

While times are hard for some right now, Powell and others are trying to make it easier on those who need help the most. 

“These kids have to learn, regardless of our circumstances,” she said. 


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