Connecting with Students

What makes HBAS special?  Ask our students, and they often point out how our staff reaches out and supports them along the way. Before stepping into their first class, students are introduced to HBAS through an orientation session.  Teachers share life stories in ESL classes and have one-on-one meetings with Diploma students. Our Support Staff reaches out to help students overcome obstacles and reach their goals. 

Since we first closed campuses due to COVID 19 almost a year ago, these connections have often felt torn apart at the seams.  We have missed seeing students in the office and classroom; there really is nothing like in-person interaction.  But here at HBAS, we always adapt.

In this ever-changing landscape, our staff has found new ways to reach students.  We’re trying out innovative technology tools, training students in Outlook and Teams, and revising curriculum to fit online and hybrid instruction. In all of these efforts, the common thread is staying connected to our students.

Online Learning

Helping students feel connected to their teacher and each other is paramount, especially in the ESL Program. We learn language best through conversation and topics relevant to our lives. Since instruction had to be moved online last spring, teachers have adapted their lessons to fit the Microsoft Teams platform.  

For ESL teacher Suzanne Hammoud, a critical first step is making sure students check their email and have access to Teams/Zoom links for class.  Once in the virtual classroom, ESL teacher Rebecca Sphor starts by asking all students to turn on their video for a few minutes “so everyone can see and greet each other before recording starts.”

Ms. Hammound and Ms. Sphor both use the “Breakout Rooms,” which allow students to converse and work together in small groups.   Ms. Hammoud also pulls students aside one at a time for speaking interviews and to discuss private issues. Even outside of classroom hours, our teachers go above and beyond by communicating with students in emails and phone calls.    

HBAS Geek Squad

With new technologies, there is a learning curve for staff and students alike.  Lucky for us, HBAS has incredible in-house tech support!  The tech team develops training materials, many of which are available on our YouTube Channel.  Students and staff can request support through the Teams “IT Help” Channel, and a member of the HBAS IT Support Team will reach out quickly.

We also know that not all of our students have access to tech equipment at home.  To make sure our students can continue to participate virtually, HBAS offers loaner laptops to students in need.  Our students love being able to join their class on a bigger screen instead of using their phones. 

Supporting Students

HBAS is committed to providing the support students need to succeed both in and out of the classroom, especially in these unprecedented times.  

Guidance Specialist Vanesa Rodriguez says that “good-old fashioned phone calls” often work best.  Over the phone, she is often able to walk students through the process of downloading and signing in to Teams.

Job Developer Arlene Flores explained that since learning has gone virtual, most communication with our students occurs via Teams. “We have a Student Support tab that most teachers have implemented in their Teams classes.  Here we can communicate upcoming events and how to reach us.”

Teachers can also invite Support Staff to pop into their virtual classes to introduce themselves and share ways they support students. In a time when the job market is volatile, Arlene launched a Job Board where job seekers can find opportunities with local employers.

After canceling our annual Job Fair last spring, College and Career Specialist Valerie Beachley started a “Fun Fridays” Webinar series. At these free Zoom sessions, local employers and community partners joined Valerie and Arlene to share opportunities and resources.  We’re bringing webinars back this spring with the “Working Fridays” series.  These online events are offered to community members at no cost!

Cultivating Wellness

In a world where uncertainty is the new norm, self-care has never been more important. Counselor Ashley Nguyen has been working hard to connect with students in creative ways. She posts flyers on the Teams Student Support channel and creates videos for our Youtube Channel.  Ashley also developed a Wellness Hub on the HBAS website to give students tools to manage and cope with different emotions, and helpful outlets and practices for when life gets tough. 

Ashley also stays up to date with resources (especially Covid-related) available in our community. She found that “many students email me personally to thank me for sharing resources such as free diapers, food distribution, rental assistance programs, grant programs, etc.”

A New Normal

As Covid numbers are improving and more people are vaccinated, we are seeing some facets of education return to a new “normal.” We are thrilled to welcome teachers and students back in the classroom. At the same time, the new skills and technology we’ve acquired for distance learning will still be put to use. 

One positive outcome of the adaptations made for COVID is that we’ve seen the benefits online can offer.  If students cannot attend class in person due to work, sickness, lack of childcare or transportation, they still may be able to attend class online or view the recording of the class through Teams.  

For the time being, many of our classes will continue in the hyflex model, where students can choose to attend in person or online.  We will continue to offer many opportunities to connect and learn online, including CTE Info Sessions, YouTube and “Working Fridays.”

We are proud of our staff and students’ efforts to evolve and stay connected during a tumultuous year. In a time of uncertainty, one thing’s for certain: we’ll never stop learning.