Lauderdale County School District - Pandemic Partnership Response

Providing opportunities for achievement through engagement, motivation, and relevant technology serves as the first strategic goal for the Lauderdale County School District (LCSD). The adoption of Canvas as the learning management system spearheaded the collaborative mentoring project between Lauderdale County School District and Meridian Community College. Realizing the need for improving online teaching skills and instructional design experience to improve distance teaching, diversify learning opportunities, and increase engagement as digital education continues to evolve, a Digital Teaching Mentoring partnership was formed.

In light of the global coronavirus pandemic, the district’s inclusion of some 29 distance learning days and split attendance days in accordance with CDC-recommended social distancing guidelines, as well as a fully virtual schooling option for students in need of remote instruction, this partnership provides practical, meaningful, and real-time support for K-12 teachers delivering instruction via Canvas. Strengthening community partnerships, particularly during the challenging COVID-19 season, is a major priority for Dr. John-Mark Cain, Superintendent of Lauderdale County School District and Dr. Tom Huebner, President of Meridian Community College. According to Dr. Huebner, “This has been a tough year for all of us as we've explored new ways to provide educational opportunities for our students. It's nice when we can partner and pool our resources to impact our community in a unique way. We value our local school districts and are always pleased when we can make something significant happen by working together.”

Dr. Cain echoes the valuable contributions of this unique endeavor: “The Lauderdale County School District continues to partner with the Meridian Community College in mitigating the unprecedented technological changes facing K-12 education. Through our partnership, LCSD educators have received a plethora of support and professional growth. These ongoing efforts have helped us meet the challenges mastering today's new platform embedded learning modes. Our shared common values of service, strong communities, support for economic development, and enhanced educational opportunities in Lauderdale County continue to bond us together.”

Therefore, as we work collectively to build digital teaching skills that deliver quality instruction this partnership focuses on three major areas: mentoring, subject matter expert networking, and digital teaching skills. Within the K-12 school district, teachers expressed interest in being paired with a mentor faculty member from the community college. Mentoring sessions were hosted via phone, email, or through Zoom/Google Meet, and all mentors and mentees were provided resources via a Canvas course shell. K-12 teachers were matched with community college faculty in the same, or closely related, subject area so the subject matter experts could effectively network and discuss best practices for teaching that subject area. Finally, community college faculty demonstrated their digital teaching skills while offering insight into instructional design practices based on national design standards.

Joining forces, Lauderdale County School District and Meridian Community College partnership works to provide students comprehensive, diverse, and accessible instruction hosted within Canvas by investing in teachers. Kim Barnes, math teacher for the district, shared how her confidence in digital teaching grew as a result of having a mentor through this partnership: “My mentor helped me to understand […] and then gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with Canvas. It was nice knowing that I had someone to reach out to for any of my Canvas needs." Each mentor provided their contact information for follow up questions or professional networking with their mentee as part of the program.

Interestingly, the mentoring project expanded to include support staff such as K-12 counselors and behavioral specialists being paired with community college staff such as advisors and college navigators in order to learn more about providing support services such as counseling, social-emotional learning, library services, tutoring, and more through digital delivery formats within Canvas. Heather LaCoste, student services coordinator for LCSD, shared appreciation for the invaluable knowledge and hands-on assistance provided through this partnership: "I found the LCSD/MCC Canvas mentoring partnership to be extremely beneficial. The program was convenient and tailored entirely to my needs. I saw this as an opportunity to increase my capacity within my position. I hoped to be paired with someone who understood the nuances within the functions of my job, and needless to say, I was very pleased to be paired perfectly with a professional educator who understood my challenges and was more than able to assist me in overcoming them."

Meridian Community College’s Associate Director of Advising and Retention and adjunct Learning and Life Skills instructor Shaquita Hopson served as a mentor and characterizes the partnership as one of significance in terms of helping and boosting confidence in digital teaching skills: “I found this program to be very helpful! I was able to help another person learn something new about Canvas and its features. In the process, they taught me some new tricks, as well. I am glad both LCSD and MCC saw the importance of mentoring and how it plays a factor in employee morale."

The Lauderdale County School District and Meridian Community College partnership creates a stronger foundation for continued instructional growth using digital teaching skills for all students in Lauderdale County.

Community Partner:
Meridian Community College