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Consistent, Challenging Teaching in an Uncertain Time

Jane Pablico “didn’t skip a beat” when schools converted to remote learning in March.

“During this time of quarantine where so much was topsy-turvy, Mrs. Pablico’s students knew one thing for sure: She would be there to teach them,” says assistant principal Lisette Manuel of Walker High School in Louisiana. “She did what was necessary for her students. She made sure her students were prepared for the upcoming exams.”

Pablico, an Advanced Placement Physics teacher and NMSI’s June Teacher of the Month, is further described by Manuel as “never shying away from a challenge and is nothing less than professional. She pushes her students by being an example to them.

“Since she began her career at Walker High, she pursued her own learning by earning a doctorate degree. She is always seeking out opportunities to further her education – embodying a true lifelong learner. This overflows into her classroom.”

We asked Pablico to describe the highlights and obstacles of her 24-year teaching career.

What was your experience finishing the school year with remote learning?

It was very abrupt, but I’m glad we pulled it through. The resources from NMSI have been very helpful. Also, my NMSI mentor was helpful. He walked me through using Zoom. The first time I used Zoom was for my class, which was daunting and exciting at the same time. Stepping out of my comfort zone can be fun and exciting. That’s what I really found out during this lockdown times.

I’m glad NMSI resources are useful for you as you navigate the unknown. What specific resources have you used?

Students have resources through a NMSI Blackboard account. The online NMSI student study sessions are very helpful for the students, who get to review the topics on the AP exam. I still use the great resources I received from our school’s first year of NMSI [College Readiness Program].

What was it like for your students to go from an AP exam written on paper to an online version?

It was my first time to utilize Google Classroom, so my students had good practice of turning in assignments online. Several weren’t able to participate in the exam – not because of a lack of access to a computer or internet. During the lockdown, some of them worked full time during the day, so they wouldn’t be able to participate in the live online sessions on Zoom. We had students whose parents lost their jobs, so that’s why they are working full time.

One good thing about the NMSI online study sessions is it’s not during the day, it’s in the evening at 6 or 8 p.m., which doesn’t interfere with class time. Students have different NMSI sessions to choose from.   

After the AP exam, I contacted my students, and most said it wasn’t as stressful as they thought it would be. They are feeling confident about the results.

How did you find ways to help the students working full time?
Some of them had issues with printing the review packets, so I printed them out and had them available at the school so they could pick up at any time to accommodate those who are working. When the school offices closed, I placed the packets outside in front of the office.

We need to accommodate them. Our objective is to submit to their needs. We should be flexible in meeting these needs.

Some who were working full time opted not to take the test. I suggested they take a day off during the schedule of the exam, but they still didn’t or couldn’t take a day off.

What are your biggest takeaways from remote learning in the spring?

Even if we have face-to-face teaching in the fall, they still want us to be ready just in case if we need to resort to online again. It’s great that I’ve already learned how to use Google Classroom, so I’m prepared for the next school year. With face-to-face, we would still incorporate online learning in the classroom so students would already have that practice.

Students have access to technology. They all have cell phones, and we want to incorporate it into their learning instead of using technology only for playing games or social use. With a cell phone, we can use EDpuzzle, which I learned about from NMSI Blackboard resources. It’s a good way to flip teaching because they can watch videos about the concepts on their phone or computer, so when they come to class, all we have to do is review it a little bit and have more practice instead of me teaching them the concepts already learned on EDpuzzle. I can test their understanding using EDpuzzle by adding questions for them to answer.

I had two students that were missing in action. I couldn’t contact them. I’d send them a Remind message and they wouldn’t respond, so I contacted their parents, and they were cooperative. So, the following day, students responded and did assignments.

How were you keeping a connection with students during remote learning?

On Google Classroom, there is a part where we can pose questions. I can pose a discussion question and require students to post something on the discussion. With live Zoom calls, we met almost every day except when I assign other tasks like a virtual lab [The Physics Aviary] where they need to submit a write up.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for the upcoming fall semester?

If we don’t meet face-to-face, it will be another big challenge to condition students for remote learning. I wish we would meet face-to-face so we can at least train students on how to use online platforms before we go to remote learning, especially with new students.

Learning loss is possible, and I hope the students coming in have enough math to deal with physics problems. But from experience, I already have to review at the beginning of the school year, so it shouldn’t be a big difference in reviewing.
What is something you've learned since you started teaching in 1996?

When I started teaching, I would teach students the way I was taught, which was mainly problem-solving. Through the years, I learned that it’s more important for students to understand concepts rather than use equations to solve the problem. The conceptual understanding of physics is more important and better prepares students for college.

Why did you choose to major in and teach physics?

I like challenges and bettering myself. I enjoy applying math because I also like math. At the same time, you relate it to everyday experiences. I often use the names of students playing sports in physics questions in class. I remember having a fire drill, and while the students walked out of the building, they saw the pavement was wet because it just rained. A student almost slipped, so then another student jokingly said, ‘Hey – watch. Your name will be on the bell ringer about how much friction exists from shoes to the floor.’ When I was sitting next to students during a football game and it was a full moon, and I mentioned that it’s beautiful. He said, ‘Yes Mrs. Pablico. It’s not crashing to the earth, although it’s attracted to the gravity of the earth.’

What are some other ways that NMSI supported your classroom and school?

The funding from NMSI was very useful. I was able to get equipment for my class I wouldn’t have a way to have otherwise. I still have some resources I wasn’t able to use because of the lockdown. I was excited to use them because they were new, and suddenly, I can’t. I’m so looking forward to my next class. I like improvising materials from my experiments, but it’s wonderful with NMSI funding to have real materials. Before the funding, I used to use a Nerf gun for my projectile motion experiment. With NMSI funding, I have projectile motion equipment and can have more precise results when we do experiments, which is awesome because the Nerf gun isn’t very precise.

Is there anything we haven’t touched on that we should know?

I’m working on a National Board [for Professional Teaching Standards] certification. A major reflection in going through this process is the focus is on the students. It’s not about you. It’s about them. It’s reflecting on what you did good or what you didn’t do well. It’s about looking at student data and assessing them regularly and seeing if they are getting the lesson. NMSI helped with providing professional development and Professional Learning Communities needed for the National Board certification. I should have the results [for national certification] in December.

Know a NMSI-connected teacher who deserves recognition? Email marketing@nms.org to tell us how they’re making a difference in math, science, English and arts education.