Teaching in a pandemic Devone Smith and a year of growth

We’re all well aware of the enormous challenges educators have managed over the past 18 months with virtual teaching, hybrid teaching and a steep learning curve in technology, sanitation, and public health.

But that’s not what this letter is about. As we close this most interesting year, I want to share with you how teachers have not only embraced the uncertainty and the chaos, but used it as a catalyst to become MORE.

Devone Smith teaches AP Biology, Principles of Biomedical Science, and Medical Interventions. After finishing her 5th year of teaching at Pius XI, she is more enthusiastic than ever about being an educator.

A naturally curious person, she shares that she has loved (yes LOVED) being challenged this year to develop new skills and develop new curriculum in order to best reach students virtually.

She sought experts from around the country in online forums, and through her personal network to implement more innovative alternatives to traditional in-class projects. And as she learned new skills, she taught them to her students.

“In Principles of Biomedical Science we typically create a model of Type I and Type II Diabetes as a way to educate people about this disease. That wasn’t possible this year with my virtual students so I created a new lesson that allowed us to achieve the same goals by using technology. I had students create an app simulation that would teach populations of people about the cellular functioning of their bodies and how it impacts their health. I added a new reflective component where the students explain the "why" of their app and the impact health education has on disease maintenance.”

And she didn't stop there. She saw that there was even greater potential for this lesson and reached out to app developers for advice on how to expand this project next school year to create an actual working app.

Her desire to ensure equity among virtual and in-person students actually created an opportunity to uplift all students.

Devone, who has two Master’s degrees in Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Leadership, is finishing year one of a PhD program in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service from Cardinal Stritch University.

“Our school theme is ‘Be More You.’ I feel like at Pius XI, I was able to BE MORE myself and so I became a better teacher. I try to model an authentic love and enthusiasm for education so that my students feel safe to become MORE of who they are meant to be,” she says. “One of my biggest encouragements to students this year was to be our best, no matter what the circumstances are around us.
Yes the pandemic was a challenge, but we can rise to these challenges and be more than our circumstances.”

So as we complete the 2020-21 school year, I want to offer this encouragement.

Sometimes it is in the challenge that we find a strength we didn’t know we had. I have so much hope for the future of Pius XI because of the gifted people God has placed in our community. Our teachers, our students, our Board of Directors and all of you who contribute to a greater good and higher purpose.

Thank you for your support. I hope that you too have found sparks of joy and hope within the chaos that you can reflect on as we all move forward into a more hopeful next chapter

Sincerely - Jack Herbert, President

Pius XI Catholic High School 135 N 76th Street Milwaukee, WI 53213