Busta’s Educators of the Week: Educators are also on the frontline in this war against COVID-19

Dr. Carol Montague-Davis, executive director and principal at Carver High School and Dr. Michelle Johnson, superintendent/owner of The Point Preparatory and Leadership Academy.

Busta’s Educators of the Week: Educators are also on the frontline in this war against COVID-19
May 07
03:20 2020

By Busta Brown

In honor of Teachers Appreciation Week, I spoke with two phenomenal educators about how they’re also on the frontline during this war against COVID-19. 

When Dr. Carol Montague-Davis and Dr. Michelle Johnson received the call that their schools were about to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were well prepared. “Our school was preparing for it before we got the news. We received the news on a Saturday, but on Friday I had teachers send home learning materials because we just didn’t want to be caught off guard,” said Dr. Michelle Johnson, superintendent/owner of The Point Preparatory and Leadership Academy in Jamestown, N.C. 

What made my heart drop was what followed: “We haven’t seen our scholars since that Friday. Our teachers are grieving, and I’m not sure our scholars are doing 100% OK with this.” 

I teach radio and public speaking classes at The Point, so I could see the heaviness in her eyes. She sincerely loves her scholars and their families. “I was following what was going on in other states. And my staff, scholars and their family’s safety are first, so I made the decision to close the building before I heard the news.” 

Dr. Melicia Whitt-Glover and I did the interview on Zoom for our radio show “Your Health Matters” on WSNC 90.5. On the screen next to Dr. Johnson was another phenomenal woman and educator, Dr. Carol Montague-Davis. She shared how Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools was very well prepared as well. “The central office had already set a plan to put together a team of teachers to go and start an E-Learning transition. The Wednesday before the Saturday that we got the news, a group of teachers had been trained from every school to start the E-Learning transition. So that Friday I brought my staff in for planning time so they can get the platform to start this E-Learning transition, because I felt it in my heart that we weren’t going to come back to school,” she said with a heavy heart. “We are one-to-one school, so our students are learning online anyway. So, on the Friday before we got the news about closing the schools, we wanted to make sure our students were prepared for this transition. We made sure they had all of their passwords, and how to get on every teacher’s PowerSchool page. As a principal, you are like a parent to your students, and you feel when something wrong is coming, so my natural instinct to prepare and protect them just kicked in,” said Dr. Montague-Davis. She’s the executive director/principal at Carver High School and has been a champion for education, youth and families in Winston-Salem for years. 

Dr. Michelle Johnson shared some of the concerns from parents. “The intensity of the remote learning, it seemed like everything was flying at them at once, especially if you have multiple children. We didn’t receive any complaints about it, just some very good and positive feedback about it. I had one parent reach out to me directly and asked to slow the pace down a little and I did. That’s when I instituted that we’re not having remote learning on Wednesdays, and for parents and scholars to do what they needed to get done on that day. Take a break,” she said with a warm heart. 

She also instituted that no messages going out to parents after 8 p.m. “It helped a lot and our parents really appreciated it. For the most part, our parents have been phenomenal. The staff and the parents have gotten into a groove and things are flowing very well, and we’re working hard to keep doing our very best,” Dr. Johnson said. 

Dr. Montague-Davis respectfully joined in to echo Dr. Johnson. “There have been mention of too much work and assignments, so we instituted what we called Flex Friday. Students cannot receive any assignments on that day. If the students need help, the teachers take that time to provide small tutoring, but mostly the students can do things other than E-Learning. Like virtual field trips and other fun and exciting things,” said Montague-Davis. 

She also said that a group of teachers track how many students are online daily or if students are not online or engaged in E-Learning. A staff member will call those kids “… because what we don’t want them to do is to think this is a long vacation. Then you come back in the fall and you’re going to be so much further behind. The positive is, it’s making the students more responsible and independent leaners.” 

“We have to get our mindset beyond just testing, because scholars aren’t testing right now. And we don’t want them to think, so why should I be learning if we’re not testing? We need them to understand that they’re learning for life,” said Dr. Johnson. 

I loved that statement, because I always share with my scholars that I don’t give them homework, I give them life work. 

Dr. Johnson continued, “We have to do some work internally in our communities about the importance of this not being a long summer break, and we cannot experience five months of learning lost with our scholars. There are already disparities in health and education, and we don’t want to pile on the disparities that already exist by not taking advantage of this time that we have now to make some changes. And it begins with the mindset of why are we doing education, and create learners for life,” said Dr. Johnson. 

Both ladies shared how they’re making sure their scholars and families are safe and eating, and anything else they can provide to make this easier. Dr. Johnson displayed a very warm smile as she looked into the camera, and then said, “We are here for our scholars and families, both socially and emotionally.” 

Dr. Montague-Davis had to fight back tears as she spoke about students that have to work full-time jobs because their parents were fired or laid off. “Some of them have to work during E-Learning hours, so they ask for flexibility. So I make sure my teachers are very flexible and understanding with the students and we work our schedule around theirs.” 

The phenomenal educators ended with some confirmation we all need as parents: “Get to know your children during these times at home. Also make a schedule for them, because kids are used to a schedule during school hours. Lastly, comfort them that this too shall pass,” said Dr. Carol Montague-Davis. “Help your scholar have one win every day, the sense that they have accomplished something they haven’t before. One win, one victory, every day,” said Dr. Michelle Johnson. 

As an educator myself, Happy Teachers Appreciation Week! I truly appreciate and respect all that you do. TEAM SCHOLARS!

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