Adaptability is a trait teachers across the country have had to come to terms with whilst teaching amid a pandemic, whether it be conveying a lesson through Zoom sessions or to a small number of socially-distanced students with masks on.
For Teresa Crenshaw at Oscar Hamilton Elementary, however, being adaptable just comes with the territory.
In her 41st year of teaching, Crenshaw was named in the Elite 100 list by IXL Learning, which is a K-12 personalized learning program used by 11 million students.
Crenshaw, who has been teaching fifth grade in the Foreman School District for seven years, was recognized by IXL for her ability to keep students engaged with the use of this virtual program, despite various communication challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created.
She uses IXL to reinforce concepts, identify areas for reteaching and to personalize instruction for her students no matter where they were learning from.
A literacy teacher, Crenshaw said she mostly uses the platform for intervention and remediation.
"I love the diagnostic testing," Crenshaw said. "The diagnostic test diagnoses the problem and what their weaknesses are. It also shows their recommendations. I use those recommendations to build on those skills, and then for those that it shows they're really strong in, we use those to build on those skills too."
IXL has skills to choose and apply to lessons, including ACT skills, reading series skills and Arkansas standard skills. Crenshaw uses all of those, in addition to using the platform to keep in touch with students and be available when they need assistance.
"We highlight those and I can conversate with them, message them and give them encouraging messages on there while they're working," she said. "And I can see what they're doing at home, if I need to redirect them or tell them to re-take a diagnostic test. I can just communicate with them real well."
She said this is very helpful, as the biggest challenge this school year has presented is individual teaching.
"I just prefer to be able to work more one-on-one with them," she said. "That has been the main thing, that individualizing. I can individualize their skills and their plan, but I want to give them that individual help and redirect them when I need to. And that's a little bit more difficult than usual."
Crenshaw gets to work early and stays late to keep up with this new technology because she said that's what her students need right now.
"This is 41 years, and I do it because I love my babies," she said. "And I will be there for them. I come in early, and I stay late. I work with them through my lunch time. I'll work before school, after school. I'll do anything I can to make sure these babies succeed.
"When they succeed, that's all that's important to me. That's my reward right there. I don't have to have any big awards or anything."
Entering her fourth decade as a teacher, Crenshaw said she feels like she's just getting started.
"You have to change with the times," she said. "You have to stay updated and just be willing to step out there and do the best you can and to keep learning yourself. That's what the (students) do. When we introduce new skills and strategies to them, they don't always understand it. But you keep trying, and it's alright to make mistakes. That's how you learn. And I'm not afraid to make mistakes. So, I learn from those mistakes and keep building on it."