June 17, 2020 Moonshine Minutes
Subtitle: We Built Bridges
Before Nevada and California gave the official stay-at-home orders, Sierra College took the initiative to go virtual. On March 8, it became the first community college in California to announce all three campuses were moving to remote instructional delivery, a move that was at the time bold and proactive, then of course, it became inevitable. Soon, educational institutions throughout California followed suit to limit exposure to the looming pandemic. I’m Becca Loux, editor at the Ink, and welcome to Moonshine Minutes.
Sierra College English Professor Christina Nemec wrote a Moonshine exclusive describing the unprecedented and unexpected transition.
“My English 1A and 1B students at the Tahoe-Truckee campus began asking me about going remote. ‘What are we going to do?
I said I wasn’t sure. But one thing was certain: Based on the exceptional on-ground instruction I’d witnessed at our local campus, I assured them, ‘People, we’ve got this.’”
The Tahoe-Truckee campus — along with the rest of the Sierra College community — had about a week to fully transition. Some professors like Jacqueline Anderson (Math 12 and 13) and Kurt Heisinger (Intro to Business, Financial Accounting 1 and 2), who are seasoned online instructors, set up ConferZoom and Canvas tutorials.
But mid-semester is a tough time to switch, even for the online pros.
Still, one-by-one, school doors closed. Smartphones and computer screens lit up. Sierra College was fully online by March 18, the day before the governor’s stay-at-home order.
For nine weeks, students and professors held it together. Screens burned with circulating announcements of updates, clarifications, affirmations, advice for asynchronous learning, and news of embedded librarians. Counseling and support was made available for students struggling technically or personally with the transition.
Derek Larson (Bio 14) texted to connect with students. Chris Old (Psych 107) kept discussion board conversations going and scheduled at least one live Zoom meeting or phone call to check in.
Kurt Heisinger and Nemec herself — along with other instructors — hosted optional simultaneous Zoom conferences.. Suddenly, students and teachers were managing the real-time chaos of daily life together. There they were on sofas ConferZooming beside stacks of wrinkled laundry or sitting at kitchen tables piled high with breakfast dishes — just out of sight. Some taught before a fantasy green screen of swaying palm trees occasionally interrupted by unmuted ambient noise: A blender. A random dog barking. Someone’s baby fussing.
As May wrapped up, so did the students and staff’s journey into technology and connection while remote. Nemec’s composition students are concluding with final inspirational posts. They shared TED Talks about creativity and diversity, Peanuts cartoons about life and death, excerpts from John Muir and Marcus Aurelius.
Daniella Paniagua-Ruiz and Emily Medina, both seniors at Truckee High earning college credits at Sierra College, shared a Winnie the Pooh quote inspired by their innocent days at Alder Creek Middle School: “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Zach Poncelet, also a Truckee High senior, offered an instrumental tune by Koresma called “Bridges,” which he listened to as a freshman. He admitted: “It’s nostalgic now that I’m a senior.”
From Nemec “Bridges and nostalgia — those ideas rang true for me, too. Coming out of this semester is like coming out of a dream; we’re blinking in the raw light of something very new. And I imagine one day we’ll look back on this time, too, with the satisfaction of having done good, meaningful work. Throughout the Spring Semester of 2020, the Tahoe-Truckee staff of Sierra College offered our students the best education possible during the most challenging of circumstances. Together we constructed virtual connections to make learning take place. But we did so much more. We inadvertently stepped into each other’s lives.
We built bridges.”
As Nemec and her team move into the 2020 summer and fall semesters, online classes are fully staffed with local instructors. According to Kimberly Bateman, our Tahoe-Truckee dean, “Many courses are synchronous which means there are optional Zoom meetings where you can connect with local professors.”
For information visit sierracollege.edu or call (530) 550-2225 to make a Zoom or phone appointment.
That’s all for your daily dose of ‘Shine, folks. We want to take a quick moment to thank you, growing tribe of Moonshine Minutes listeners, a new project motivated by these challenging times. I’d like to quickly put a few of our other special projects on your radar if they’re not already: visit moonshineink.com/tahoetalks/ to learn about the important community conversations we’re facilitating over Zoom, including Fire in the Face of COVID featured on yesterday’s episode, now with the full video and takeaways on our site. Lastly, it surely is summer, albeit perhaps an odd one, and Tiny Porch concerts are back! Stay tuned for a release of Otis McDonald, a YouTube phenom who has combined plays of 7 billion.