How teachers are supporting each other - even if their schools are 80 miles apart

paula and ashleigh

Paula Gibson and Ashleigh Osborne meet in-person at least once a year to discuss instructional ideas for their Dental programs and new topics in the dental field.

They’ve exchanged group activity ideas like using glitter for infectious disease control, simulating tooth extractions on animal heads and studying tooth anatomy using soap carvings.

Their conversations this summer have shifted more toward teaching in socially distant and remote settings.

“Am I a little more stressed out than usual?” Mrs. Osborne said. “Yeah sure. But I’m ready. We’re ready.”

As the only two Dental Careers high school instructors west of Altoona – Mrs. Gibson teaches at A.W. Beattie and Mrs. Osborne teaches at Venango County - they’ll count on each other more than ever to continuously develop best practices.

“There’s so few of us in this region, so it’s nice to have someone to ask what has worked and what hasn’t worked in a high school classroom,” Mrs. Gibson said. “We’re always looking for ways to engage every student more effectively. The glitter lesson was her idea, and it’s a great idea. I never would have thought of that.”

“The plus is that it’s a really effective way to teach infection control,” Mrs. Osbourne added. “The downside is that you’ll see glitter pop up all year. You might open your notebook at the end of the year and still have glitter representing a disease in there, but it reinforces why we do that activity, which is to emphasize how important infectious disease control is.”

Their most recent meeting revolved around cloud-based software called Curve to develop in-school and remote lesson plans.

They also discussed plans in case one of them is unable to be in their classroom to teach, a common discussion held by many instructors across career and technical centers in the area.

“We’re bouncing more ideas off of each other while taking into consideration what to expect for any scenario and how we respond,” Mrs. Gibson said. “If I needed to be out of the building for some reason, (biology instructor) Mr. Thayer would come in for my class with his background. Anything he might not be able to explain fully, he could contact Mrs. Osborne, and she could even provide recorded demonstrations That would go both ways.”

Inevitably, they said, students in school will work on each other with the proper PPE.

“I have a great group of second- and third-year students,” Mrs. Osborne said. “They’re motivated. They know what to expect. My plan is, my hope is, my first-year students follow their lead. I tease them and say, ‘don’t make me put up signs that say there’s no I in team.’ That’s all dentistry is. It’s team work. You have to be a team player. It’s in every dental ad for every dental job ever.”

“We’re going be as prepared as we can be when that time comes,” Mrs. Gibson added. “The kids I’ve been in contact with can’t wait to be back. They’re anxious to get started back up. I’m anxious to get started back up, and we have to take of each other when we do come back together.”

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