Virtual Push-ups & Jedi Hugs

Vistamar School

  • Category
  • Written by
    Laura L. Watts
  • Photographed by
    Cliff William
  • Above L to R
    Nimisha Barton, Seth Miot, Suzy Hernandez

L to R: Mickey Blaine, Sarah Sweatlock, Jonathan Schaefer, Jennifer Silver

As we continue to see businesses and individuals stepping up and making efforts to support others during these uncertain times, one group stands out as true everyday heroes in our book: educators. With schools closed, these individuals have changed gears, figured out new technology and made themselves available virtually to students at a time when teens are craving routine and reassurance.

“I am so proud and thankful to our teachers, who have successfully shifted their outstanding teaching to this virtual world while also delivering care and connection to our students,” says Chris Bright, head of school at Vistamar, an independent college preparatory day school in El Segundo. “Our community has been strengthened by their efforts. Thank you for who you are and what you do.”

Vistamar School’s faculty has been facilitating learning that gives students interesting, relevant, meaningful work—albeit from home. Here is a peek inside some of the teachers’ remote classrooms and a few thoughts from students in those classes:

Being there for students is just as important to Seth Miot as is teaching math. “I leave my Zoom room open all day so students can drop in—whether they have a class with me or not,” he shares. Keira S. says, “His enthusiasm in the classroom transferred immediately to the online platform.” The teacher even offers a daily lunchtime push-up challenge—virtually!

Dr. Jonathan Schaefer has experimented with new technologies and figured out how to teach lab science even when students can’t be in the lab. “Dr. Schaefer’s class is one of the best-run classes online,” says student Ellie P.

“I am so proud and thankful to our teachers, who have successfully shifted their outstanding teaching to this virtual world while also delivering care and connection to our students.”

Dr. Nimisha Barton, humanities instructor and director of equity and inclusion, made a creative pivot to embrace online learning and keep her students engaged—implementing creative techniques such as animated Macbeth presentations and key scenes staged with stuffed animals and student voiceovers. “Dr. Barton cares about our well-being and is doing everything she can to make this transition as smooth as possible for all of us,” says Aaliyah H.

Mickey Blaine is having to think outside the Zoom box when it comes to teaching theatre and film production remotely. Hope C. shares, “My acting class is as normal as it can be, and Mr. Blaine is not giving up on anything we started before moving online.” He leads a student crew to ensure the entire school continues to enjoy the well-loved “Morning Meeting” virtually.

“Maestra Hernández is an amazing teacher who used the change to online school as an opportunity to explore new teaching styles and activities—allowing us to continue learning and strengthening our Spanish speaking skills,” shares Katrina D. of Spanish instructor Suzy Hernandez.

Jennifer Silver’s psychology class is even more engaging and relevant now, as she helps her students understand the anxiety and loss they are currently feeling. “Ms. Silver keeps a positive approach in the face of video conferencing and a global pandemic,” says Grayson M.

Dr. Sarah Sweatlock’s dedication to and connection with her students goes beyond teaching and chairing the math department, as she supports the teens while they grapple with the loss they’re currently feeling. “She ends every calculus class with an offering of ‘Jedi hugs,’” says Emily B.

Vistamar School has transitioned successfully to an online educational setting, thanks to the passion its teachers have for their subject matter and especially for the relationships with their students. They care deeply for these dedicated learners—and it shows.