Allison Akeo was the 2020 Long Beach Teacher of the Year, recognized for her special ability to build relationships and connect with students over her 20-year teaching career.
This year her goals are…as the kids say… “same same - but different.”
The primary focus (beyond the obvious math and science objectives that she will still need to get across)…is on students’ social and emotional well-being.
She says it’s the primary emphasis that is unique to this year’s training.
“We’ve always been focused on social and emotional health but now it’s at the forefront of our everyday class. Things like daily check-ins. More empathy and a mindfulness around equity. Understanding that some students need to do their work asynchronously (independently, not while on a Zoom chat).”
Mrs. Akeo taught summer school virtually this year and saw success in beginning each day with an anonymous poll on zoom. She would have students rate on a scale of 1-5 how they were feeling each day. Or sometimes have them send an emoji showing their feelings.
“Gauging where students are emotionally is really important. It might not be something you act on right away but noticing trends and patterns in how students are feeling lets you know when you may need to give someone a break or encourage them. Or in the long term if you need to steer them toward the correct resources or counseling.”
Akeo will be motivating all students to work collaboratively in an online learning environment.
She is the organizer of the WEB program at Marshall Academy, “Where Everybody Belongs.” The 6th grade transition program is a form of orientation connecting 6th graders to 8th graders. This year, Akeo got the idea to make a Google Classroom to which all of the 6th grade students were invited. Each day she releases a slide with “words of wisdom,” or WOW written by 8th graders. The WOWs include advice and suggestions for a successful middle school experience.
She can’t believe what a hit it has been already. Even before school started, 6th graders were already engaging with the campus and starting conversations. Getting excited about being at Marshall and asking questions.
So will she be keeping the online component to WEB and things like anonymous online polls for well-being in the long term?
“Some of the things that work this year, yeah we’re going to keep. If it works and it’s good for kids you keep doing it. There are lots of things we can do to update education. Look at something like grading, it’s been the same system for a long time.”
Social and Emotional well-being will definitely stick as a learning lesson this year for Allison. And like a true “Teacher of the Year” she’ll only continue to get better after the recognition and accolades have passed.