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GRAHAM, N.C. — Most schools are starting the school year remotely. While online learning works well for some classes, for others that are designed to be hands-on, teachers are having to get creative.

At the Career and Technical Education Center in Alamance County, Kim Mahaffey has lots of idle equipment in her classroom. The health sciences teacher says it’s been that way since March when learning went online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While some classes could do everything virtually, many of those taught at CTEC couldn’t.

“There’s so much that we cannot do online,” Mahaffey said. “You cannot have that one on one with that student to practice doing a blood pressure for nursing and things like that. You can’t, you don’t have them here.”

Her students were used to earning their Certified Nursing Assistant certification by the time they graduated. But without clinical labs, they couldn’t. So she says the state allowed the school added two classes, Gerontology and Public Health Nursing, in lieu of the Nursing Fundamentals classes which require clinical labs.

“These are endorsements that can be added onto their CNA within the two years,” said Mahaffey. “So if they get their CNA within a two year period of time, they add on this additional endorsement to that CNA that they’ve attained. That gives them a step above anyone that’s just getting their CNA.”

Chris Griggs teaches digital design, animation and gaming. He too has a room full of specialized computers his students can’t use. But the good news is, that hasn’t stopped them from excelling.

“These courses have their own intrinsic, you know, cool factor,” Griggs said. “So the kids will love it. If you give them enough room to be creative and to take ownership of their own learning, you’re going to get engagement.” 

Griggs does step-by-step video tutorials for his students that teach them the basics, and then he lets their creativity take over. The results have been great.

Online learning is nothing new for Dustin Hurdle. He is the facilitator for CTEC students who can’t get the classes they need at the school.

“Typically those are classes that aren’t offered in our district,” said Hurdle. “So it gives them the opportunity to branch out a little bit.”

While they are adapting to the changes caused by the pandemic there is one thing they all agree on. They can’t wait until its safe to hold classes in person and they can see their students in their classrooms once again.