Golden Apple Award: Stepping up to the challenges of remote learning

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - With COVID-19 concerns, school's not in session. But that didn't stop 10/11 NOW and Doane University College of Education from recognizing a special education teacher who continues to go the extra mile for her students.

Every month during the school year on 10/11 NOW, we honor a teacher who is making a difference in her community and at her school. The Golden Apple Award winner for March works at Lincoln Southeast High School. Of course, we are unable to go inside due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we surprised Kayla Belden at her home through Zoom video conferencing.

Kayla's coworkers Karista Ackerman and Karen Krull nominated her for the award.

"I'm just honored because there are so many teachers in our building that are so deserving of this," Belden said.

But these coworkers say Belden is a teacher who steps in to help when needed. She was there when her department chair became ill.

"She was diagnosed with brain cancer. so I was interim department chair for a semester," Belden said. "She came back for awhile, and when it became terminal, she had to step down. It was a hard time for our team. Another time we all stepped up and became like a family."

And it's that family relationship that this team leader is building with her students.

Belden says, "I think you're always hoping that your class will be the best part of their day. And just seeing that joy and excitement in the little things they get to experience, and the successes they get to achieve, makes it all worth it."

Now, COVID-19 has entered the picture. Another challenge, disrupting learning. Kayla's desk now is her dining table. And in her room, her three young kids. But staff meetings continue. And Kayla's drive for connecting with families remains strong.

Belden's advice to families is just to remember to be flexible. She says, "Prioritize and focus on quality over quantity. And as teachers we just want our students to know that we miss them. And we're hoping that families are doing as well as can be."

Belden says remote learning presents some new challenges and opportunities for engaging her kids. But she tells me, she can't wait until she can step back inside this building once again.