Even though our buildings are closed, our schools are still very much in session. Today, we’re talking to a teacher at AF Apollo Middle to learn more about his experience with remote learning and a fun project he’s been working on!

Tell us about yourself.
I’m originally from New Jersey. I went to Georgetown University for college. I did a volunteer year, then I was a financial reporter for six years. Now, I teach seventh grade writing at AF Apollo Middle. I also coach the basketball team.

Why did you decide to make the shift from reporter to teacher?
Journalism is a huge part of my life, and I loved being a reporter. But I never really wanted to write about finance. I wanted to write about important issues like education policy, which was difficult to find during that time. I still wanted to do something more meaningful, so I decided to become a teacher. I reached out to a guy I used to coach basketball with at Georgetown, Michael Hendricks, the principal of AF Apollo Middle, and he let me shadow a few teachers and offered me a TIR (Teacher-in-Residence) position!

Wow, what a journey! So now that you’re a teacher, we know things look different. What does a day of remote learning look like for you?

screenshot of a poem

screenshot taken from apmsmagazine.com

I try to get up in the morning before our morning advisory to do some stretching—if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll do a work-out. Before my class starts, I call parents, plan lessons, and grade. Most recently, I’ve been working on this new project I just launched—the Apollo Magazine, which has been a really invigorating experience for me. It’s an online magazine that showcases the voices of our student writers through poetry, short stories, essays, and more. It’s something I really care about.

That sounds really cool! How did you come up with the idea?
This is actually something I’ve always wanted to do, and after we transitioned into remote learning, I thought this would be a great way to celebrate students. Students are missing out on a lot of end-of-the-year events and celebrations, so I wanted to give them something special. Creative writing can also really help students emotionally process everything. The first two weeks of remote learning, we gave students creative writing assignments and reminded them that their stories are important. When people write about their experience, those stories can become the primary source for historians later on. So their entries now could become a part of history.

What else have you been doing to engage students during this time?
I love basketball, so I’m always looking for ways to stay active. I’ve been using this app called HomeCourt that uses artificial intelligence to help you train. It’s really cool! I use it to help me coach, but anyone can use it. For spirit week, I challenged students to stay active by posting a video using the app.

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That looks really fun! What is something you are really grateful for right now?
My coworkers have been keeping me afloat. I also really love my 1:1 conversations with students. This is going to sound cheesy—but those conversations remind me how much I enjoy spending time with them.

Last question, do you have any words of encouragement for other teachers?
In times like these, when there’s a great change in your external world and your life shifts, there’s also opportunity—in the way we react and in our outlook. It can feel like we’ve lost control over our lives and decision-making, but the truth is—we do have power, it’s just in a different way.

Thanks for sharing, Mr. Kentz! We hope remote learning continues to be a success. Check out the AF Apollo magazine here: www.apmsmagazine.com

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