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Teachers lead charge to MUSD distance learning
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As a Microsoft Innovative Expert Fellow, the transition from classroom to digital learning is something that Tammy Dunbar knows a little bit about.

And as Manteca Unified School District begins the process of transitioning to a digital educational system in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced all schools to close, Dunbar is among the educators working with the district and her fellow teachers to ensure that students are receiving the best education that they can with the tools that the district has at its disposal.

The process, Dunbar said, has been surprisingly smooth so far.

“We’ve been a 1-to-1 school district for five years now, and so Dr. (Clark) Burke is looking at this and what we have our disposal and he came up with the strategy that we’re going to employ,” Dunbar said. “We tracked off for a week and when we came back and had the announcement, we had 1,400 teachers on the first call about how to implement these strategies for our students.

“I’m very excited about seeing our educational community coming together to do what we do well for the kids.”

This week the district has been working to deploy laptops to students in primary grade that don’t bring them home so that content and curriculum can be delivered in their homes rather than in the classroom – preventing the momentum that teachers have been building all year from going to waste in the final quarter.

As a Microsoft district, Manteca Unified will use Microsoft Teams as an interface for students to interact both with one another and their teachers – a relatively new program that includes video chat features that allow for the teacher to offer real-time instruction or post videos that students will then view and respond to.

Other components of the curriculum are already digital and accessible by students that have devices, and advancements in the interface allow teachers to assign work straight from the programs that students interact with – with built-in scaffolding and opportunities for differentiated instruction depending on the ability of the individual student.

“The students are our number one priority,” said Dunbar, a teacher at Lincoln Elementary. “It’s a work in progress getting all of this figured out with the timing and everything, but we have these tools at our disposal and the ability to provide this for our students. We can provide great content as long as we’re making sure the students are getting the things that they need.

“I’m just proud of our teachers – we have just over 1,400 teachers in the district, and to have all of them on that initial training session so that we can get this off the ground shows the dedication that they have to their students.”

Dunbar said that she has been working with district personnel to create training videos that teachers can view and re-view to bring them up to speed on the features of the programs that will be used to facilitate online learning.

Currently Manteca Unified School District is planning on using the online platform through the middle of May, and then returning for the last two weeks of school – depending on the guidelines set forth by health officials as it pertains to the containment of the COVID-19 virus.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.