Teachers in rural areas are having trouble connecting with students

Experts say schooling needs to change or more students will fall behind
Posted at 10:20 AM, May 07, 2020

Andrew Sanchez and his wife Brianna are both teachers and parents living and working on the big island of Hawaii.

“We work at Kea’au High School,” Andrew said. “Our district that we live in Puna. Its enormous. It’s the size of Oahu.

When COVID-19 concerns closed their school, the couple transitioned from teaching in class to online – balancing both parent and teacher responsibilities.

Tasked with teaching from afar in an already rural community, however, they had big challenges connecting with their students.

“There are people with no power, no running water,” Brianna said. “So, how are we going to get them access to online learning?”

Though their situation is unique, education experts say the Sanchez’s struggles represent a growing section of the entire U.S. population.

“There’s a lot of concern about access, concerns about technology and access to the internet,” said Colin Sharkey with the Association of American Educators.

Sharkey says e-learning can’t quickly replace traditional learning especially with a short period of time to prepare during a pandemic.

“The amount of time that’s being lost is multiplied by just how difficult it is for some students to even participate in learning,” he said.

With tens of millions of students now learning from home, Sharkey says the education system needs to adjust and curriculums need to change.

“If we don’t address it it’s just going to get passed on. It’s going to compound,” he said. “You’ll see an uptick in students who don’t graduate or unprepared for college.”

Despite the challenges, Andrew and Brianna see value in their new virtual teaching techniques, saying they’re working on finding new ways to keep students motivated to learn during this crisis

“We’re going to handle that no doubt,” Andrew said. “We’re going to make sure the kids get what they need, no doubt.”