MPS teachers 'personalize' e-learning, finalize outdoor classroom

Overcoming challenges and pushing toward success is the goal for teachers this fall, with the school year starting amid the coronavirus pandemic. Milwaukee Public Schools' students are taking part in distance learning, and teachers are going the distance to make it work.

Jason Kulinski

With a grid of students and screens in front of him, Jason Kulinski teaches fifth-grade math. He said remote learning started off a little rocky for the 27 kids in his class at Clement Avenue School.

"We are learning all new platforms," he said.

But now, everyone has pretty much adapted to the digital age.

"I do actually see a lot more engagement," said Kulinski.

Brianne Marcum

Just down the hall, first-graders get into the groove with help from Brianne Marcum, the physical education teacher. 

"A lot of my class is based on teamwork and socialization, and that is a little harder during a virtual setting, trying to figure out how we can still get kids to interact with one another?" she said.

Teachers are tailoring plans not just for each class, but in some cases, for each student. 

"Maybe they want to learn how to run a mile, and increase basketball skills, so I'm trying to personalize it for my middle school students," said Marcum.

The transition has been months in the making.  

"It's been pretty incredible, and a tip of the hat to MPS saying our teachers need all the professional development they can get to help support and sustain academic learning and rigor at home during this virtual time," said Shannon Kilsdonk, Clement Avenue School principal.

Development is not just happening inside of the building, but outside, as well, as staff prepares a new learning environment with an outdoor classroom. 

"We are looking, in the next couple of weeks, we should have the structure up and ready to go," said Kilsdonk.

Meanwhile, teachers are still going the distance and Principal Kilsdonk said students are flourishing.

"I would say we are going to be ahead of the curve," said Kilsdonk. "I think that this has pushed our learning to a whole other level, which has really been incredible."