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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Schools pair virtual teacher with in-person 'learning coach'

San Jose students are learning geometry from a virtual teacher with help from learning coach Rene Silva. Photo: Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group

The geometry teacher is in Maryland. The students are in California. A small San Jose charter school is using virtual teachers and in-person learning coaches, reports Elissa Miolene for Bay Area News Group.

Cindy Avitia High School contracts with Coursemojo to find qualified -- but virtual -- math and science teachers.

Monica Campo Vazquez, 16, says virtual geometry is her favorite class, because she can privately message the teacher, Sushma Vishnubhotla, with questions.

"Learning coach" Rene Silva is in class to keep students engaged and answer questions. He has a teaching credential, but coaches can work with only a substitute credential.

At one point, he sits down next to a student who seems to be losing interest.
“Everything okay?” Silva asks.
The student shrugs her shoulders, nods and sits up a little straighter, refocusing her eyes on her computer screen. Throughout the course of the class, Silva keeps his eyes on the student, revisiting her desk to ask questions and keep her engaged.

The model isn't cheap, says Shara Hegde, CEO of Alpha Public Schools, the network that includes Avitia High. It's not ideal either. But it beats hiring substitutes. “Teaching is a hard job right now, and people who often get degrees in STEM have a lot of opportunities.”

The future of AI in education will include in-person helpers, predicts Travis Pillow of the Center on Reinventing Public Education on Think Forward. "When most of the core academic content is delivered through an online learning platform, the role of the adult in the room with the student — often called a coach or a guide — can shift from content expert to troubleshooter, motivator, and relationship builder."

Learning providers such as Prenda, KaiPods, and Great Hearts' microschools are experimenting with how to do this, Pillow writes.


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