New faculty members prepare for start of virtual year

Excitement, challenges arise for teachers


Gurleen Swaich

After five months of uncertainty, teachers have reported back to Southwest for two weeks of professional development prior to the first day of classes on August 24. Amongst the returning staff, seven new and transferring teachers will start their first year as coyotes.

“I chose Southwest because they have the best fashion program probably in the country,” Fashion teacher Levi Miles said. “When I was working as the FIDM college rep, I would come in and do presentations and I was like this is the school I want to teach at because it’s really cool. So I got my teaching license and for the past three years I’ve been working to be able to teach here.”

After spending last year as a long-term substitute,  Health Science, Respiratory Science, and Independent Living Instructor Cynthia Wong is excited to finally have her own class and use this time to figure out her personal “virtual” teaching style

“I am definitely looking forward to actually having my own class this year because I was a sub all of last year, so it’d be fun to meet my students and get to know them better,” Wong said. “I would like my classroom to be very open and I want my students to be involved with my learning and not just listen to the facts. I want them to be able to incorporate it to their daily life, so they actually understand it and internalize it.” 



However, due to the ongoing pandemic, English 9 teacher Jessica Wolfenden and others are concerned on how they will connect with their students virtually.

“It’s important the first few days of school for me to establish a safe space for everybody and tell them that there will be a lot of bumps in the road and let them know as well as reassure them that we will figure it out together,” Wolfenden said. “I want to continue with communication and want students to feel like they can communicate with me about anything and we’re going to work it and figure it out together.”

Programs such as Fashion Design and Automotive present unique challenges because they are hands-on courses. Miles hopes to let the students explore with their own creativity and indulge in independent learning to begin learning the skills of their course.

“The one thing I want my class to realize is that you don’t have to be in a classroom to learn,” Miles said. “With all of us teaching from home if a teacher says something interesting to a student, the student then has the ability to go and keep looking it up and do independent learning.”

Furthermore, in order to help students master the topic, Wong is planning on keeping the lectures to a minimum and using discussions as a way to measure the comprehensive skills of the class. 

“I hope by switching it up and not making a majority of the class lecture, it would invite some discussion so the students can get involved with their learning and actually discuss the topic, instead of looking at the screen which can get pretty boring,” Wong said. “We have a built in schedule before and after school, so we are there in the room, which means that if anybody has any questions they can talk to me like going into my office after school, which is cool that we have those opportunities. But, this year is going to be a learning trip for all of us, and we are all in it together.”

Even though teachers are experiencing challenges, Freshman Studies teacher Kimberely Caipa is remaining optimistic.

“I have been teaching World Geography to eighth graders for the past eighteen years and I am ready for a change and a new challenge,” Caipa said. “I am genuinely impressed by how well everyone in the Southwest community works together and how much they support each other and I have yet a lot to learn, but I see this as a challenge to grow as a teacher, so I am looking forward to working with freshman and developing them into the best students they can be.”

Are you excited for the new school year to begin?