New Faculty Members Adapt to Remote Learning


Mr. Chen (left), Mr. Luu (middle), and Ms. Bagdonas (right)! (Source: Steven Chen, Samson Luu, and Kelly Bagdonas)

Six months into the school year, the new staff and faculty members of Boston Latin School had the unique experience of facing their official first year at BLS virtually.

Classes have been held online since last March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing the BLS community to adapt to a virtual learning environment. Staff and faculty settling into the school, who under normal circumstances would have to learn to adjust to new surroundings, have had to confront the additional challenge of doing so in a remote setting.

With online settings now replacing in-person interaction, building relationships between students and co-workers have become more difficult. While online school provides some convenience with scheduling and traveling, new staff and faculty agree that there is a sense of informality missing from the communication between themselves and students, hindering their ability to adjust.

 “I have to ask for people’s Zoom links now,” states Assistant Head of School Steven Chen, who joined BLS at the beginning of this school year. He describes having to put in extra effort to meet BLS students through their extracurricular activities when in the school building he could have just stepped extemporaneously into a club meeting and introduced himself.

This transformation in how we interact has compromised the new staff and faculty’s knowledge of BLS culture, as their introduction to BLS has not been a normal one.

Assistant Head of School Chen adds, “I think it’s been a very strange year in that I actually don’t really know what normal BLS is like.” Looking forward, Assistant Head of School Chen hopes to feel more like a part of the school community.

Remote learning has also introduced the time-consuming process of designing new curriculums that translate better into a virtual classroom and are more compatible with the virtual schedule.

Ms. Kelly Bagdonas, a former student teacher who now teaches Earth Science, says, “[The preparation for the new school year] took a full 180 this summer.”

Recreating lessons and routines has added an aspect of unfamiliarity to even the faculty who have had ordinary teaching experiences prior to BLS. “This is my ninth year teaching, and virtual learning very much makes you feel like you’re a new teacher all over again, starting from scratch,” says Pre-algebra teacher Ms. Erica Penaloza.

Both Ms. Bagdonas and Ms. Penaloza, however, express that collaboration with other teachers in the same department or cluster has been crucial in creating the most functional virtual school environment possible.

Though it will not be possible for the hybrid model to be as interactive as they would like, the new staff and faculty look forward to having a presence of people other than themselves in the building. From getting to know students to decorating their workspaces, all of them share excitement for a school system that is closer to normal, and for an opportunity to relax some of that online formality.

“I literally just want to see your half-smiling faces behind masks, and just have real conversations with some of you. I think the virtual space has made a lot of people really shy. It’s kind of awkward, this whole talking to each other online,” Ms. Penaloza remarks.

Despite the disconnections that may have come out of not being on campus, the new staff and faculty are equipped with the knowledge and drive to adapt themselves well into the BLS body.

“With my five years of experience as a counselor and with the support from my current team members on the guidance staff and the support team, I think they have really helped me make a smooth transition to Boston Latin School,” comments Mr. Samson Luu, the newest counselor in the guidance department.

Ms. Katie Linso, who most recently joined the BLS faculty as a middle school guidance counselor and Student Support Coordinator, says, “Virtual learning has been isolating at times. However, I feel encouraged by the resilience of the BLS community. I feel very confident that we will make it through this unprecedented time by working together and supporting one another.”