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Silver Lining in a Crisis

 

COVID-19 drove us to look at things differently; after accepting that e-learning would be a necessary component to instruction in the fall.  Our staff was tasked with a limited amount of time to learn, become proficient, and embrace new technology.  As a result, Dallas Academy now reaps the benefits of leaning into that technology.  In a school that specializes in teaching students with learning differences, these students have shown resilience in their approach to learning. 

Much like the students they lead, Dallas Academy teachers also stepped up to face the challenge and embraced the opportunity to find a new and exciting way to teach.  Teachers started the 2020-2021 school year with an intense week of Microsoft training; learning that empowered them to shift seamlessly between live and virtual instruction during the first semester. Dr. Mandi Skerbetz, Assistant Head of School, quickly seized the opportunity to start a partnership with the Microsoft Training Team.  “Dr. Skerbetz and the Dallas Academy team immediately saw the potential in taking a holistic training approach with both students and educators. The fact that they set aside a dedicated week for Microsoft training sent a clear message to all involved that this was important learning and created a high level of engagement with Microsoft Store’s training” says Angela Garrity, SMB/EDU Sales for Microsoft. 

This rise in student engagement can be attributed in large part to the ease in communication using the Microsoft tools.  Teachers have seen success in their students.  In a school where there is an increased focus on creating a plan to target individual student needs, the Microsoft Accessibility tools and dashboard assist with specific organizational skills like Executive Functioning.  Much like the world of social media, there are immediate notifications back and forth between students and teachers in the Microsoft Teams dashboard.  Through the Microsoft Teams chat and call features there is immediate access between teacher and student just as there is in their social media post feeds.  Each class has its own Team which houses everything for the class including notes and assignments, allowing for practice with organization.  The Accessibility tools allow teachers to provide support and accommodations to students, in order to reduce barriers to success.

Being that one of the hallmarks of our school is our tight knit community, the school-wide access to the same technology has given Dallas Academy the ability to retain this identity by hosting fun community-wide events. Our Performing Arts Improv night, annual Pumpkin Chunkin’, and other traditional events were on the verge of being cancelled until we shifted gears and used our technology to ultimately, stay connected, virtually. 

As we look ahead to the uncertain future, we know that the future is bright for students at Dallas Academy.  “Our students are prepared beyond the classroom and our students are now armed with a platform currently used in higher level education and the workforce”, Dr. Skerbetz says with much hope.  “Dallas Academy is proud to become the first DFW school for students with learning differences to partner with Microsoft and have 100% of its staff become Microsoft Innovation Education Certified.”   

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