Roots & Wings Online

Teaching From a Distance

Meet four of Ladera's hometown heroes – our teachers. The have adapted, risen to the occasion of distant learning and share some of their experiences with Roots and Wings magazine.

Caroline Platt
Teacher, 5th Grade
Ladera Ranch Elementary School

One thing in life is constant: change! And it's no different when it comes to education. Caroline Platt knows this firsthand. She is a fifth grade teacher at Ladera Ranch Elementary and has been an educator in the Capistrano Unified School District for 25 years. Prior to that, Platt was a student in the same district. Platt considers herself blessed to live and teach in Ladera Ranch. Platt says, “In the midst of this current health crisis, our goal remains the same – instilling a love for learning and to prepare our children for their future through providing a world-class education. As education has continued to evolve, distance learning presents a new adventure that presents our children the opportunity to adapt and learn in new ways. “They're learning resilience and adaptability – two skills that will serve them well in life. They also build their confidence as they live through this experience and learn that they can prevail through tough times” Platt notes.

Both teachers and students are learning how to interact over virtual platforms like Google Classroom, Hangouts, Jamboard, Flipgrid video platforms and Kahoot. After starting with the flag salute led by a different person each day, students:

  • Communicate with Platt daily using Google Hangouts
  • Learn about language, history, math and science
  • Discuss comprehension questions in Hangouts
  • Take music lessons twice a week
  • Complete daily exercise with GoNoodle®
  • Practice daily geography and learn about one of our 50 states

Avonnette Bruce
Kindergarten Teacher
Oso Grande Elementary

Avonnette Bruce has taught in Ladera for 15 years at Oso Grande where she was part of the planning team that opened the school in 2005. She too is a Ladera resident. Bruce notes, “This (distance learning) has been a big change for everyone involved – students, teachers and parents. “It has made me become more creative than ever. I’ve become an IT person through learning new programs, apps and fixing computer problems. I have had to come up with lessons that entertain, motivate while creating a safe learning environment where my students will do their best and be successful through a computer screen” says Bruce.
As their teacher, Bruce wants her students to remain happy, healthy and safe while they maintain their grade level standards. “I know it is a struggle for parents to do my job but they are rising to the occasion, to ensure that their children stay on track for success next year. Everything doesn’t need to be perfect during distance learning but we all are making it work. I miss seeing my students each day and the stories that they share with me” Bruce said with a smile.

Keri Ray
Spanish Teacher and Yearbook Advisor
Ladera Ranch Middle School

Keri Ray has been a teacher for almost 24 years; 16 of them at LRMS. She has lived in Ladera for the past six years. While Distance Learning is not an ideal situation, Ray and her students are making the best of it. She hears her students (especially the shy ones) speak more often through various websites where students record themselves with and without video. Ray builds flexibility into her program which families appreciate, because she knows not all students have access at the same time so they can't always interact in real time.

Ray holds Google Hangouts sessions for students who come with questions or to simply pop in to say "hola" and catch up with other students. “It's been nice to see what students do in their free time and for them get a glimpse into my life as well. I learn how they're doing and understand what support they need” she said. As an optimist who looks for the good in every situation, Ray says that distance learning has enabled her and her students to learn differently, work together in new ways, and find creative solutions to problems. At home she loves watching her older daughter help her younger daughter to learn a concept when she has a question.

Dena Stetter Farnham
Teacher, 1st and 2nd Grade
Chaparral Elementary School

Dena Stetter Farnham has lived and worked in Ladera Ranch for 18 years and currently teaches a 1st and 2nd grade combo class. Farnham and her students do their best holding daily Zoom meetings, but it’s not the same as being in our classrooms. She counts herself as fortunate because she has 30 motivated learners.
To maintain a connection with her students, Farnham holds daily video meetings to teach reading, writing and math. Currently she is reading a novel to her 1st and 2nd graders. She has baked brownies for each of them, created a class Facebook page, and visited some of their houses when their parents have reached out saying their child is struggling emotionally. Farnham has sent each of her students a “Mini Mrs. Farnham” in the mail. They take Mini Mrs. Farnham on special adventures and post pictures on the class Facebook page. “Our success as a class over the past months can be credited to our parents who have done an amazing job supporting their kids during this challenging time” said Farnham.