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Learning Curve: Virtually Teaching Indigenous Third Grade Students In Arizona

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Throughout the school year, we're hearing from families, students and teachers about how the pandemic is changing education for a series we're calling Learning Curve. Today, we take you to Scottsdale, Ariz., to meet a third-grade teacher, Lynette Stant. She's Dine and teaches Indigenous students at Salt River Elementary School. She's also Arizona's teacher of the year. The school year has started, and she's been teaching for a month now. And it's virtual. Lynette Stant sent us this audio diary.

LYNETTE STANT: I miss my kids. I haven't even met them. I mean, I've met them over the - talking on the phone, but I haven't met them face-to-face. And I look forward to the day when I get to meet them.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STANT: So Wednesday is the day two of us on our team get two hours at our school. And we made packets for all our third-graders for learning at home, also checked in with all my parents. Some of them are still having difficulties with Internet. I think there is an assumption - well, I know there is an assumption that our parents just automatically know how to maneuver and manipulate our learning platforms. And I'm thinking about the parents that have more than one child at home and the grandparents who have more than one grandchild at home. And then I finished up my day writing progress reports. It is 10:12. I am going to go to sleep.

September 3 - what a busy day. You know, families are really opening up about some of the struggles that they have been experiencing. It has helped me really look at teaching from a different angle, looking through the lens of humanity. Yesterday, I was checking in with my parents, and one of the parents was frustrated because the learning packet was overwhelming to her student. You know, she said that when she opened the envelope to get the learning packet, there was other things in the packet. She said, for a moment, I just stopped and was like, are you kidding me? And I sat, and we did some collective breathing. And I have never done that with a parent before where I've just, like - OK, let's breathe together. You know, we're going to breathe in. We can do this, and we're going to let go of the I can't. What we decided when we came together as parent and as teacher was that we were going to design a different packet for her child because her child's needs were much different. And so that was a celebratory moment for me - made me really feel good about teaching.

I just closed my laptop. I just miss pre-2020 COVID teaching, greeting students in the morning, having breakfast with them, having parent nights and meet the teacher night and all of those in-person kind of celebrations. I definitely am missing them. Yeah. The work never ends, and I'm so grateful for this long weekend. I'm definitely going to use it to my advantage and catch up on work.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Lynette Stant, who teaches third grade in Scottsdale, Ariz. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.