Amy Stoker Teaches AP Literature In-Person and Virtually


By Bree Ammons

How many years have you been teaching?

This will be my sixth year full-time. I taught part-time before that.

What has your experience been like so far with planning for the year?

Every week this summer I worked on this. I wanted to retool the AP Lit curriculum with some newer, more modern literature and all that, but also just converting everything to online because I knew that even if I wasn’t going to teach fully virtually at some point, people in class are going to be virtual, whether they’re sick or closed down temporarily. I just wanted to make it all equal on this new platform called Canvas that we’ll all use, and so I just spent the whole summer converting all my lessons to paperless. 

Since you guys are going paperless and there is probably contact-tracing to keep in mind, will they be using E-books instead?

We’ll still pass out textbooks, there just won’t be any novels passed around. If you have a book, it’s really only for 24-48 hours that the virus is alive on a surface. We still want to wash our hands after handling things, but we are not going to be passing things around – we don’t wanna be passing papers back and forth so that’s why a book, you can keep it in your bookbag, you can keep it at home, but you’re not passing it around. And so, whatever we pass out to you, you’re going to have for the quarter and textbooks for the year. The chromebooks, we’re going to have to wipe those down at the end of every class. What we’ll do is have students do it at the end of each class. We’ll end class a few minutes early and everybody will grab a paper towel and spray it and wipe it. 

How is your virtual section’s curriculum going to differ from your in-person classes?

Really just that all the conversation’s online. It’ll be where we have Zoom open everyday, but we’ll only spend 10-15 minutes max on instruction and then there will be time to work where they can log off and I’ll just keep the Zoom open or they can break into groups using the breakout rooms. So there will be some instruction and discussion on Zoom, but it’s really going to be kind of an open portal where the students and teachers can interact as needed. But we will have live instruction everyday to start out the class.

You mentioned breakout rooms, so is that how they will be doing their group work? And are there any extra measures you will be taking to make sure that they are productive?

Because we have Canvas, everyone of my assignments will be on there and I can even group people by who gets what worksheet to work with, so it groups people and pairs people. We can do peer reviews through Canvas too. It’s a little more time consuming to be honest because I can’t walk around really quick to check understanding.

Besides staying after on Zooms, how will students be contacting you to get feedback on things?

They can message [me] through Canvas, but I’m still going to be using Remind because it’s quicker so my students will use Remind. And then I can either pop open a Zoom if they want to talk face-to-face or they can just text me a question. 

When you do Zoom calls, how will you be making sure students stay engaged and are retaining information and participating?

We want them to have their video on so we know they are there and if something has happened where they don’t feel comfortable, they still have to respond via chat. So we are going to have to sit there and sort of have a one on one with each student at the beginning of class. Check-in how they’re doing and all that. For me, I’m going to be sharing my screen and they’ll have it too. They’ll be logged into Canvas and be walking through what I’m walking through and they’ll just be free to work. I’ve set up instructional slides and some teachers are doing videos. I’ll do a few, but I’m better with slides than video. 

How is the workload going to be different than previous years, taking into account your online students and some obstacles they may have? 

It’s going to be more because – I saw this during fourth quarter – instead of walking around to students I have to open every submission from every student so that’s what’s time-consuming. What’s going to be interesting is the size of these virtual classes. Like mine, I’m teaching a virtual fourth hour and it’s 32 students online so I have to have all these windows open to respond to them so there is definitely going to be a learning curve.

Is it all from FHN or have they put you with some students from other schools?

No, it’s a mix. I’ve got a third from FHN, a little more than a third are from Howell, and then a little under a third are from Central.

Human connection and making sure students are comfortable with their teachers is important, so do you think it will be different teaching kids from other schools? 

I think at first, but for that reason, that first week we are doing not just getting to know you, but community building things. There will be a lot of community building this first week whether it’s in person or online and it’s coupled with the fact that some people are still wounded from the spring and we have to deal with those issues and emotions and we’re all a little anxious about coming back. So it’s going to be a lot of checking in and making sure people know they have support. 

You are teaching AP Lit?

Yep. For me, it will be easier because my class is more self-directed since it is an AP course. 

Since your class is more self-directed, would you say that teaching virtually has made things easier or harder?

For the student, I actually see benefits – and benefits for me too actually. One is that with Canvas, even if I do a Zoom call and give any instruction, I can record it and link it into Canvas so at any point in the school year, you as a student can go back and relearn something that you forgot or you weren’t sure about. There’s going to be so many more online resources for each course than there’s ever been rather than keeping a stack of papers that you are just going to throw in your locker.

Would you say that the benefits in this situation almost outweigh or do outweigh the drawbacks?

I guess it depends on how much you value the relationship compared to the academic side and I know for students it’s more about the relationship. It’s going to vary by person. I think the relationship side will take some more concentrated effort. I think from a more academic side though that there are more benefits. 

Will your main source of contact be Canvas? 

Canvas does have a messenger, but I know from my son – he’s in college, so from experience and his friends – I should keep Remind because it’s so much quicker since it’s on your phone and you’re faster to respond to a text than an email. It depends on the teacher, but I’m going to use Remind as my lifeline.

What do you like about teaching virtual?

For me, I would honestly prefer in-person because it’s heavy writing and it’s easier to do that in person, but I like that it’s forced me to go through every lesson and think about how I can simplify it for a student that might be absent. It will allow people to pace their learning more individually within reason. 

What is something you don’t like about teaching virtual?

Feedback is just more time-consuming from a teacher perspective, but we’ve all discussed ways to be more efficient with that and some of it could just be an audio recording, so rather than having to type out every thought, I can just speak it on a one-minute message in Canvas.

Are your expectations any different for your online learners?

No, they stressed that we, as virtual teachers, need to keep our expectations the same because in fourth quarter we were all just trying to get across the finish line and it got harder and harder to stay on top of stuff so we’ve geared up to keep that from happening this time.