Online School Interview: Denise Helms


Emory Pittman, Print Editor

This week, our Online School Interview focuses on Mrs. Helms, math teacher!



  • How many classes do you teach per day?


I teach all four of my math classes each day.



  • How have you adapted to online classes?


It has not been an easy adjustment. Although for years I have created videos to teach my classes when absent, I have not assessed students online. Giving tests, quizzes, and team worksheets has been challenging. I really have no choice but to assess students in math because it is a building process. I can’t move forward until I feel they have mastered the concept. But my students have responded positively, and with the gift of a brand new Kindle Fire tablet (someone I don’t even know), I can now grade and return the assessments much faster!



  • With all of your extra free time in quarantine, have you picked up any new hobbies?


Seriously? Extra free time???? I spend at least twice as much time teaching online as I did in the classroom. Much of that is in the assessment piece, online tutoring, etc. Math is just one of those subjects that you can’t expect students to learn without actually explaining it in detail. I am sure there are other subjects where it is not necessary to meet every day because students are able to do some of the preparation on their own.



  • What movie/TV streaming service do you use to fill your free time, and what have you been watching?


We have cable, but I honestly don’t watch it much. When I have any down time I am reading books. I love to read Lisa Jewell, Lisa Gardner, James Patterson… I ordered 14 paperbacks off of Amazon and I read the first four over Easter vacation!



  • Have you ever been exposed to online learning before?


I have created videos but never really taught online. I also never took any online courses so I have never experienced the student side of that.



  • What part of your house do you teach your classes from?


Our computer/sewing room is now my office. I even rearranged everything in order to make it more conducive to teaching. Sewing machine off the counter replaced by the laptop except when sewing nursing masks.



  • How has it affected your daily routine?


I am used to standing to teach, moving around the classroom, and walking here and there on campus. I think the hardest part is that I feel strapped to my office chair most of the time.  I do try to take a break every day to walk with a friend… at six feet apart of course!



  • Has this interfered with your daily life outside of the classroom?


I don’t think online learning has affected my life outside the classroom as much as the “stay at home” mandate. I love people (much of the reason I enjoy teaching) and being secluded is not something I would ever willingly choose to do. 



  • How has this altered your relationship with your students?


I think that no matter how much we as teachers may try, it does alter our relationships with students. When at school, I often had present and past students who just stopped by to visit and share stories or who came for help. My E block students often came early to class from lunch (as much as 20 minutes), and since I am usually in my room it gave me the chance to get to know them on a more personal level. I miss being able to help students in person, being able to touch them on the shoulder and tell them they did a good job or encourage them to keep trying, being able to hug my advisees or talk them through a new situation, being able to “grab” students from Flex or study hall when I knew they needed help but wouldn’t ask… yeah, I feel as though online learning distances us from our students and I miss that daily contact.



  • What would you change about online teaching if you could?


How would I change online learning? That’s a great question, because I think what I miss most cannot really be accomplished online. Maybe once a week we meet with each class just to talk and catch up on how this is working for them? I do talk to my students about that, but in truth since we have only 45 minutes there isn’t much time for anything over than business.



  • Any final thoughts?


Final thoughts… although I am really happy that we can still teach our students and are able to be in contact with them, I am eager to return to what many would consider a “traditional” school setting. However, I have no desire for that to happen until we are in a place that assures safety for every student and every staff member. Until then, I will be satisfied with at least getting to “see” and hear my students every day!