Bishop McCort teachers online

Biology teacher Jen Bradley (center) helps colleagues Sarah Smitherman (left) and Jean Arcurio with their online training Monday, March 16, 2020, at Bishop McCort Catholic High School.

While other schools around Bishop McCort Catholic School were closed Monday, the teachers there were preparing to offer online instruction to students with the help of biology teacher Jen Bradley.

“I’m just a teacher who is fluent in technology and I’m spreading the wealth,” Bradley said.

With a masters degree in online instruction, Bradley was helping her co-workers become more comfortable with Google Classroom, the service McCort is using.

Assistant Principal Steve Cotchen said all of the teachers have some experience with the online platform, and he assigned them some homework with the service recently because he and Principal Tom Smith expected the school closure to happen.

“We were as prepared as we could have been,” Cotchen said.

With the new setup, teachers will record instructional videos and upload them to the Google Classroom for students to watch, take notes and complete assignments.

Teachers will also be able to pull up slides and provide commentary on them during the recording.

Bradley said she was just showing her co-workers how to take their existing methods and translate that to 100% online.

Some of the teachers already have a week of instruction planned out, according to Cotchen.

During the training, Bradley went over basic tips about how to treat online learning, how to implement lessons in Google Classroom and making and uploading videos.

Thus far, the teachers have taken to the program, Bradley said.

Cotchen added that they will have the option to work from home if they are comfortable enough with Google Classroom, but the school will be open for them if they need it.

Chemistry teacher Joseph Hancharick said he’s adjusted well, and on Monday afternoon, he was working on uploading videos online.

“I think it’s great our school is doing this to stay ahead of the game,” Hancharick said. 

Students will have from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day to complete their assignments, and if that’s done then they will be counted present for the day.

All of the ninth- through 12th-grade students already had devices to be able to complete online work, and Cotchen said the school handed out devices for their seventh- and eighth-grade students as well.

Currently, Bishop McCort has five instructional days available from the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

That means there will be online learning from Tuesday to Friday this week and Monday next week if the school doesn’t get an extension.

“We’re in unprecedented times right now. No one has a playbook for this right now,” Cotchen said.

Though other schools have postponed learning for one reason or another during the closure, Cotchen said McCort is continuing because the school wants to be a top educational service in the area.

He said in order to do that the students have to be educated in “hard and difficult times.”

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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